Jan Steen, Dutch, 1626-1679
Title: The Village School
Date: c.1665
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
110.5 x 80.2 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1879
Object Number: NGI.226
DescriptionOne of the key painters of the Dutch golden age, Steen is best known for his depictions of dissolute households, which often incorporated a moralising theme and frequently illustrated Dutch sayings. These cheerful and disorderly scenes seem to be a combination of narrative, instruction and entertainment. Steen was a highly prolific artist, painting some 800 pictures. Partly stimulated by his frequent moves between Dutch cities, he continuously explored new styles and themes. In addition to his many genre pieces, he painted biblical and mythological subjects, as well as a few portraits. He particularly excelled in the depiction of children.
The Village School depicts a boy being punished by a teacher. Some other pupils, whose facial features are based on those of the artist’s children, look at their poor classmate. Among the objects on the wall are boxes that children used for bringing their books to school. Steen also places bottles in a niche on the left of the painting. Many schoolteachers doubled up as landlords in seventeenth-century Holland, which lead authors, painters and printmakers to portray them as alcoholics. The teacher’s clothes are distinctly old-fashioned and therefore make him look foolish.

March 2016
ProvenanceHayman, Amsterdam, 10 April 1743, Izaak Hoogenbergh sale, lot 42; W. Lormier; The Hague, 4 July 1763, W. Lormier sale, lot 246; probably Greffier Fagel, The Hague; by descent to the Countess of Holderness; probably Christie's, 6 March 1802, Countess of Holderness decd sale, lot 110; Dermer; Christie's, 8 February 1806, 'Property of a Gentleman' sale, lot 105; London, 1815, H. Philips sale; G. J. Cholmondeley by 1818; Squibb, London, 23 April 1831, G. J. Cholmondeley sale, lot 15; purchased, Colnaghi, London, 1879
Exhibition HistoryBritish Institution, London, 1818

Old Masters Exhibition, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1883

Exhibition of Dutch Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1929

Dutch Pictures 1450-1750, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1952-1953

Il Seicento Europeo, Palazzo del Espozizioni, Rome, 1956-1957

Jan Steen, Mauritshuis, Den Haag, 20 December 1958 - 15 February 1959

Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

The Age of Rembrandt, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1966-1967

Masters of 17th Century Dutch Genre Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; Royal Academy, London, 1984

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Communication: Visualising the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto, 25 June - 16 October 2011; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai, 27 October - 12 December 2011; The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 23 December 2011 - 14 March 2012

The Art of Upbringing, Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, 28 April - 15 September 2013
Label TextOne of the key painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Steen is best known for his depictions of dissolute households. These cheerful and disorderly scenes often incorporate moralising themes and frequently illustrate Dutch sayings. The Village School depicts a boy being punished by a teacher. Among the objects on the wall are boxes that children used for bringing their books to school. Steen also placed bottles in a niche. Many schoolteachers doubled up as inn-keepers in seventeenth-century Holland, which led authors, painters and printmakers to mock them as alcoholics.