The theme of lovesickness was extremely popular in both painting and the theatre in the seventeenth century. Suppressed desire led to a vague syndrome known as ‘hysteria’. The satire is played out with the arrival of the doctor, in this case an old spinster with an enema syringe.


  • Title: The Sick Woman
  • Date Created: circa 1660
  • Physical Dimensions: w215 x h265 cm (Without frame)
  • Painter: Jan Havicksz. Steen
  • Original Title: Het zieke vrouwtje
  • Artist Information: Jan Steen is known for his humorous depictions of the everyday life of farmers and the middle-classes in 17th-century Holland. He worked in The Hague, Haarlem, Delft, where he also rented a brewery, and Leiden where he ran an inn. His genre paintings as a rule had a strong moralistic meaning, some of them even examples of Old Dutch proverbs. People still talk of a 'household by Jan Steen' to refer to a messy and exuberant way of house-keeping.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Lent by Stichting Willem van der Vorm 1972, http://collectie.boijmans.nl/en/disclaimer/
  • External Link: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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