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Drunken Woman (The Procuress?) Jan Steen


Jan Steen Leiden, 1625/1626 – Leiden, 1679

Culture Netherlandish
Date ca. 1665–1668
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil on oak

61.6 x 46 cm
with frame: 77 x 63 x 11.5 cm

Inventory number 4300
Collection Old Master Paintings
On view Museum of Fine Arts, First Floor, European Art 1600–1700 and British Painting 1600–1800, Cabinet 11

Jan Steen’s brothel scene may have been based on a popular book containing portraits of the most beautiful courtesans of the time. The youngn woman, slouching casually on a chair, looks out at the viewer, raising a glass of wine as though making a toast, while her guest is at the door, paying the procuress. The girl’s red slipper is a reference to her profession, but there is also erotic meaning in the foot stove and in the dog’s gesture. However, the young man making use of the prostitute’s services may end up like the prodigal son from the Bible, portrayed in the picture hanging in the background: if he cannot pay, he will be beaten from the building with a broom. The glass globe hanging near the ceiling, as a kind of universal mirror or all-seeing eye, is a symbol of vanitas, warning of the transient nature of carnal desires and all things of this world.


Pigler, Andor, Katalog der Galerie Alter Meister, 1-2. Museum der Bildenden Künste, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest. 2, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1967, p. 665.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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