Description of the artwork «Rascal family»
Genre scene The Rascal Family, now owned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, is one of several options on the disorderly household created by Jan Sten in the 1660s. The artist is famous for his vigorous humorous pictures, in which he views life as a vast comedy of manners. In Dutch there is the expression "House Wall", denoting a noisy and slovenly metochion, depicted, in particular, here.
It was on the "comedy" side of the painter's work that the artist and art historian of the 17th - 18th centuries, Arnold Houbrakin, emphasized the accent when he wrote that "Wall paintings are similar to his lifestyle, and his way of life is to his paintings". However, this is a mistakenly superficial assessment. Even the most comical works of one of the "pillars" of the Golden Age of Holland contain a serious background, revealing human stupidity or depravity. And in this sense, "The Dissolute Family", as Walter Lidtke, the curator of the Metropolitan Museum, put it, is the "catalog of favorite sins" of the artist's contemporaries.
Indeed, in the painting, Stan depicted laziness, represented by a sleeping old woman; lust in the form of the father of the family, who behind the wife's back holds the hand of the maid while she pours the wine to the mistress (drunkenness). The ruined table with a crumpled tablecloth symbolizes gluttony; the mistress who tramples on the Bible embodies sacrilege; board for backgammon - gambling; a broken bottle and a cat that is preparing to grab a ham on the floor - disorganization, perhaps the most important sin in Holland of the XVII century. The boy driving the beggar from the window sends the viewer to the evangelical parable of the rich man and Lazarus: one, arranging luxurious feasts, skimped even at the scraps of the second, but after death was doomed to torment in hell, begging to ease his sufferings, while the beggar ascended to heaven (Luke 16: 19-31).
But over the heads of these people hangs Fate in the form of a basket with a sword (justice and punishment), a crutch and a mug (impending poverty) and a beater (it was used by the plague and leprosy). The coming strife is symbolized by a lute with torn strings, and the hours lying on the floor remind us of the transience of time.
At the same time, Jan Sten was not afraid to write the characters of the picture from his home. He portrayed himself as the patriarch of the family, his wife Margrit van Goyen - in the form of the mistress of the house, and their sons Thaddeus (behind the grandmother) and Cornelis (at the window) embodied the bad upbringing. And, although the family life of the artist himself - with seven children and constant financial problems - can hardly be called calm and orderly, it is unlikely that he reflected the reality of his own economy. There is not a single reliable fact confirming his reputation as a spender and a drunkard, and judging by the number of works created in a rather short career (about eight hundred works attributed to the Wall), he was devoted to his profession.
Author: Vlad Maslov