Steen, Ja.N

, an eminent painter, was born at Leyden, in 1636, and was successively the disciple of Knufter, Brower, and Van Goyen, who had such a high opinion of him, that he thought he disposed of his daughter prudently when he gave her in marriage to Jan Steen. Jan Steen, however, was not prudent, for, although he had many opportunities of enriching himself, by other occupations as well as by his profession, he frequently was reduced, by an idle, intemperate, and dissipated course of life, to work for the subsistence of himself and his family. He had a strong manly style of painting, which might become even the design of Raphael, and he showed the greatest skill in composition, and management of light and shadow, as well as great truth in the expression and character of his figures. One of his capital pictures is a mountebank attended by a number of spectators, in which the countenances are wonderfully striking, full of humour, and uncommon variety. Houbraken mentions another remarkable picture painted by this master, representing a wedding, consisting of the old parents, the bride, the bridegroom, and a lawyer or notary. The notary is described as thoroughly engaged in attending to the words which he was to write down; the bridegroom appears in a violent agitation, as if dissatisfied with the match; and the bride seems to be in tears every character evidencing the ready and humorous invention of the artist. Houbraken also mentions a third picture, equally excellent, representing the funeral of a quaker; in which each face is distinguished by a peculiarly humorous cast of features, and the whole has a wonderful air of nature and probability. In designing his figures he preserved a proper distinction of the ranks and conditions of the persons introduced in his subject, by their forms, their | attitudes, their air of expression; and in this respect appears worthy of being studied by other painters. His works did not bear an extraordinary price during his life, as he painted only when he was necessitous, and sold his pictures to answer his immediate demands. But after his death they rose amazingly in their value, and are rarely to be purchased, few paintings bearing a higher price, as well on account of their excellence as of their scarcity. He died in 1689, aged fifty-three, but Houbraken fixes his death in 1678, aged forty-two, eleven years earlier than other writers. 1


Pilkington. Reynolds’s Works.