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"As the old sing, so the young pipe and plays"

Painting, 1670, 134×163 cm

Description of the artwork «"As the old sing, so the young pipe and plays"»

"As the old sing, so the young pipe and plays" – a literal translation of the Dutch proverb, "Soo d ouden songen, soo pepen de jongen". Most closely correspond to Russian proverb "the Apple fall far from the tree" and "the Bad example is infectious".

Jan Steen, deciding to illustrate this proverb in the late 1660's, borrowed the idea of three generations of his predecessor, the Flemish Jacob Jordaens, who wrotea similar scenethirty years earlier. The Dutchman has also adapted some parts from work colleagues, for example, a mother with a child in her arms, Piper and the singing grandma with a pince-nez on his nose. Most likely, he saw the engraving of the painting by Jordaens. However, if the characters around the table still look decent, the Wall family is clearly reprobate.

In the center of the feast is a mother with a baby in her arms. To her left side sits laughing man in a headdress that fathers usually wore to the baptism of their children. But the child is too old to be newly baptized, and the man not at that age to be a latter-day father. Here the artist shows a perverted world, as also evidenced by the behavior of parents.

Adults shamelessly pass on their bad habits to children. Languidly lounging lady with half-opened neckline waiting for the young man standing re-fill her glass. A brazier of coals under her feet contains a sexual innuendo. The man on the right teaches young son to smoke, comes laughter. The fact that the Walls made fun of this character itself, makes the scene even more comical. Sitting on a perch parrot in the upper left corner suggests that children repeat everything they see and hear.

In both pictures with additional character is a dog. But if the Jordans dog ears, carefully listening to the singing of the family, but the value of the animal on the canvas of Jan Steen is not well understood. Its focus is not on people but on something behind the scenes.

Like his Flemish predecessor, the Dutchman also turned the saying into a narrative. In his picture has the phrase written on the sheet which is holding the grandmother.

Author: Vlad Maslov

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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Baroque, The Golden age of Holland

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1670

Size: 134×163 cm

Artwork in selections: 8 selections

Exhibitions history