The Feast of St. Nicholas

Jan SteenAround 1665


Amsterdam, Netherlands

It is the fifth of December: the feast of St. Nicholas. Next to the chimney, traditional carols are being sung. The holy man has just arrived with presents for the children: a doll and a bucket full of candy for the girl, and for her little brother a golf club. The boy is pointing gleefully at his big brother, who has found a birch rod in his shoe instead of a present (indicating he has been a naughty boy). But grandmother is beckoning to him: no doubt there is a present for him after all, behind the curtain. Steen has succeeded in capturing the special atmosphere of this celebration. Considerable attention is given to all the goodies in the foreground: 'speculaas', waffles, and a diamond-shaped sweet loaf called a 'duivekater'. But the story is the main focus of the painting. And, like the born storyteller he is, Steen uses looks and gestures to make this clear.

Purchased in 1809, as part of the collection of Van Heteren Gevers (The Hague).


  • Title: The Feast of St. Nicholas
  • Creator: Jan Havicksz Steen
  • Creator Death Place: Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Creator Birth Place: Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Date Created: Around 1665
  • Style: Northern Netherlands School
  • Provenance: Sale Seger Tierens (The Hague) 1743; Purchased with the Kabinet van Heteren Gevers, The Hague-Rotterdam, 1809
  • Physical Dimensions: w705 x h820 mm
  • Original Title: Het Sint Nicolaasfeest
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: See more on the Rijksmuseum website
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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