The Life of Man

Jan Steenc. 1665



The curtain is lifted to give us a clear view of an inn, where young and old are enjoying eating, drinking, playing and flirting.

But for Jan Steen, it was not just about cheerful conviviality. His message is concealed in a small detail by the window. Up in the dark attic, a boy is blowing bubbles next to a skull. Although life is wonderful, eventually it will burst like a bubble.

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  • Title: The Life of Man
  • Creator: Steen, Jan
  • Date Created: c. 1665
  • Physical Dimensions: h68.5 cm x w81.6 cm
  • Provenance: Adriaan Bout sale, The Hague, 11 August 1733 (Lugt 427), no. 134 (515 guilders); Benjamin da Costa sale, The Hague, 13 August 1764 (Lugt 1400), no. 62 (for 1,745 guilders to T.P.C. Haag for Prince William V); Prince William V, The Hague, 1768-1795; confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum central des arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; Royal Picture Gallery, housed in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1816; transferred to the Mauritshuis in 1822
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas