This painting, which probably stems from Jan Steen’s Haarlem period, depicts an old couple: a seated woman stirring the contents of a silver brandywine bowl and a man grating spices. The picture was given its present title, ‘The Caudle Makers’, in 1881. Caudle, made of brandywine, egg yolks and cinnamon, was drunk during maternity visits. Considering that egg yolks and cinnamon are missing here and the old man is probably grating nutmeg, it is likely that this scene portrays something else. Moreover, the man wears the same oldfashioned hat and attire as the quacksalvers in Steen’s ‘doctor’s visits’, and there is no sign whatsoever of a birth. The preparation of a steaming drink, combined with the fire in the hearth in the background, can be viewed mockingly as a quack’s remedy aimed at warming up the old woman’s body.
Jan Steen (Leiden 1626 - 1679 Leiden)
'The Caudle Makers'
On view in
Gallery Prince Willem V
Material and technical details
41.6 x 31.5 cm
lower right: JSteen JS in ligature
Jan Jacob Brants; his sale, Amsterdam, 20 April 1813 (Lugt 8352), no. 28 (400 guilders to J. de Vos); B.A. Baron van Verschuer, The Hague, until 1901; his sale, Amsterdam, 26 November 1901 (Lugt 59550), no. 433 (6,600 guilders to Van Hulck); Hendrik Cornelis van den Honert, Baarn; by inheritance to his daughter, Magdalena Christiana van den Honert, Baarn, later Hilversum (on long-term loan to the Mauritshuis, since 1954); gift of Magdalena Christiana van den Honert, 1957; exhibited in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, since 2010