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Jan Steen, The Life of Man, c. 1665

The curtain is lifted to give us a clear view of an inn, where young and old are enjoying eating, drinking, playing and flirting.

But for Jan Steen, it was not just about cheerful conviviality. His message is concealed in a small detail by the window. Up in the dark attic, a boy is blowing bubbles next to a skull. Although life is wonderful, eventually it will burst like a bubble.

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