I hope you’re enjoying in our Art Blogmas so far. I’m having a lot of fun picking up those lovely wintery and Decembery paintings for you. Today is Saint Nicholas Day! So, it’s only fair to dedicate today’s Art Blogmas to it.
Art Blogmas 2022
I’m going to show you one of my favourite Dutch Golden Age paintings dedicated to celebrating Saint Nicholas Day. When I worked as a museum educator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, this painting would always make a stop on my tour. It shows Dutch traditions 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 busy and loud family scenes. And humour he often includes in them.
In this painting, Jan Steen shows a Dutch family enjoying the feast of Saint Nicholas on the evening of December 5th. The little girl in the centre of the painting was very good throughout the year (one of the requirements for getting all the presents) and got a doll and some sweets.
However, a young boy on her 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 get anything. He’s crying and is obviously not happy about that.
But then, two ladies in the back call him and tell him: Come, take a look. There may be something left for you in a window. One of the ladies even holds a shoe, symbolising Saint Nicholas Day that way.
Not only the feast of Saint Nicholas shows the Dutch tradition that didn’t change much from the 17th century to the present day in the Netherlands. You can also see some typical Dutch cookies in this painting. In the bottom left corner, there is a basket with a stroopwafel in it.
This painting is displayed at the Gallery of Honour in Rijksmuseum.
Watch my Rijksmuseum video for more paintings from that beautiful museum: