The household depicted here is a cheerful madhouse. Old and young are enjoying themselves to the hilt: the mother and grand - mother have broken into song, the children are making music or smoking, while the father raises his glass. The younger children follow his example. The note on the
mantel-piece says it all: 'So father, so son.' Steen's composition illustrated this old saying, making it clear that bad examples are quickly followed. Jan Steen is perhaps best known for his scenes taken from everyday life: families gathered around the table, people drinking in a tavern. At first glance they are amusing, but there is often a subtle reference or hidden message tucked away somewhere in a text. Steen was a good storyteller with a gift for staging, and he knew how to capture the mood of a piece.

Bequest of A. van der Hoop (Amsterdam), 1854. On loan from the City of Amsterdam, 1885.


  • Title: The Merry Family
  • Creator: Jan Havicksz Steen
  • Creator Death Place: Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Creator Birth Place: Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Date Created: 1668
  • Style: Northern Netherlands School
  • Provenance: On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest)
  • Physical Dimensions: w1410 x h1105 mm
  • Original Title: Het vrolijke huisgezin
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: See more on the Rijksmuseum website
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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