Author :  Robert Wenley, Nina Cahill, Rosalie Van Gulick

Publisher : Paul Holberton Publishing

Jan Steen (1626-1679) is widely admired as one of the most engaging and technically brilliant painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Accompanying an exhibition that is the first anywhere to be devoted to Steen’s Old Testament subjects, this publication takes as its focal point his magnificent Wrath of Ahasuerus (c.1668-70), one of the highlights of the Barber’s collection. The interconnections with Jewish history in Steen’s Old Testament scenes are explored, as well as the influence of Dutch theatre on his compositions, and the critical response to them since the seventeenth century.


Robert Wenley (Barber Institute of Fine Arts) explores the popularity of the story of Esther and other Old Testament subjects in Dutch culture - in plays as well as paintings - and the possibility of Jewish patrons for Steen’s Old Testament paintings.

Nina Cahill (National Gallery, London) puts forward new research about how Steen adopted the gestural language of contemporary Dutch theatre, amateur and professional, in order to represent the key figures in these scenes and to convey the pivotal dramatic moments. In some instances, Steen may have been quoting from an actual production of a play based on the Biblical story.

Rosalie van Gulick (formerly, The Maurtishuis, The Hague) considers how Steen’s Old Testament scenes have been received and understood over the years. She investigates how the apparent farcical character of these scenes has been understood over the centuries and why they have prompted adversely critical responses from some modern art historians.

Bibliographic Details:

Format (cm): 21*21

Pages: 84

ISBN: 978-1-911300-09-0


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