Jan Steen

'As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young'

169 voorzijde
169 detail signatuur
169 detail opschrift
169 ingelijst
169 voorzijde

More about Jan Steen

Jan Steen is one of the most popular and multitalented artists of 17th-century Dutch painting. His paintings hang in some of the world’s great museums. We all know his fun pictures of homes in chaos, fake doctors, sick girls and inns full of drunken adults and children running wild. His chaotic scenes are so typical of his work that a ‘Jan Steen household’ is a common saying in Dutch. Besides painting many household scenes (known as ‘genre paintings’), Steen also made history paintings and portraits. He used his knowledge of the Bible, classical mythology, history, literature (including comic literature) and the theatre in his work.

742 Jan Steen Zelfportret
169 voorzijde

Jan Steen
'As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young'

c. 1663-1665 On view in Gallery Prince Willem V


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.


General information
Jan Steen (Leiden 1626 - 1679 Leiden)
'As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young'
c. 1663-1665
Gallery Prince Willem V
Material and technical details
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