In addition to Jan Steen’s large painting of the proverb ‘As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young’ (inv. no. 742), the Mauritshuis owns this smaller version, presumably made somewhat earlier. It belonged to the collection of Prince William V. As in the larger version, various elements refer to the bad example set by the adults, which the youngsters eagerly follow with their copycat ‘piping’: a laughing man with a dark hat (based on a selfportrait of Steen) sits at a table and draws on his long Gouda pipe, while a young woman sitting next to him fills a pipe of her own. The boy next to her plays the recorder and behind him stands a bagpipe player. Here, too, the bird cage and wine-drinking are prominently depicted. A child plays with a cat at right, and at left, an old man sings by the fireside, while an old woman teaches a toddler, standing on her knee and holding a rattle, how to dance. In the past this piece was called The Painter’s Family, but it seems unlikely to be a family portrait. Unfortunately, the paint layer has suffered some damage. Today the overpainting is particularly visible in the faces of the old couple at left (see Technical Notes), but it is not clear when this treatment was carried out. Even so, the painting still displays the high quality of Steen’s work.
Jan Steen (Leiden 1626 - 1679 Leiden)
'As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young'
83.8 x 91.9 cm
lower right, on the mortar: .STEEN.
on the mantle: Soo de Oude Songe, Soo pypen de Jonge
Prince William V, The Hague, before 1775-1795; confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum central des arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; Royal Picture Gallery, housed in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1816; transferred to the Mauritshuis, 1822; exhibited in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, since 2010
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