I hope you’re enjoying in our Art Blogmas so far. I’m having a lot of fun picking up the most beautiful paintings from European museums for you during the last two weeks. It’s day twelve of our Art Blogmas today, and I’m sharing with you Jan Steen’s The Feast of Saint Nicholas with you.
Art Blogmas 2021
Today, I will show you one of my favourite Dutch Golden Age paintings dedicated to the celebration of Saint Nicholas. When I worked as a museum educator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, this painting would always make a stop on my tour. It shows that Dutch tradition so well. And it’s filled with symbolism and humour.
Jan Steen: The Feast of Saint Nicholas
The author of this painting is one of the most famous Dutch 17th-century painters, Jan Steen. He’s well known for his messy family scenes and humour he’s often including in them.
On this painting he shows a Dutch family enjoying the feast of Saint Nicholas on the evening of December 5th. A little girl in the centre of the painting was very good throughout the year (one of the requirements for getting all the presents) and has got a doll and some sweets.
However, a young boy on the right is pointing to another brother who’s standing on the left-hand-side of the painting. It looks like he was a bit naughty and didn’t got anything. He’s crying and is obviously not happy about that.
But then, two ladies in the back are calling him and telling him: Come, take a look. Maybe there’s still something left for you in a window. One of the ladies even holds a shoe, symbolising the Saint Nicholas Day that way, too.
Not only the feast of Saint Nicholas is showing the Dutch tradition that didn’t changed much since the 17th century to the present day in the Netherlands. But, you can also see some typical Dutch cookies on this painting, too. On the bottom left corner, there is a basket with a stroopwafel in it.
Watch my Rijksmuseum video for more paintings from that beautiful museum: