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The Merry Family Painting: Jan Steen’s Ode to Domesticity!

The Rijksmuseum is the National Museum of Amsterdam, home to over 8,000 masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age!

Rijksmuseum’s “The Merry Family painting” captures the essence of an intimate and warm domestic life from the 17th century. 

Visitors planning to see this vibrant and intimate artwork must know all about the painting’s backstory and deep morals.

Discover an in-depth analysis of this timeless artwork, the artist’s life and influence on the piece, and details on the entry ticket!

The Scene of the Merry Family Painting

The Scene of the Merry Family Painting
Image: Rijksmuseum.nl

The painting shows a happy family playing music together and bonding in their small, cluttered home. 

At the center of the painting is a happy mother holding her smiling child in her arms.

Beside her is the grandmother, holding a paper in hand.

The father sings to the happy tunes made by the kids surrounding him, with a cheerful look as he raises his glass. 

Even though he holds a guitar, the two sons are responsible for the music.

The boy wearing a red cap plays a cheerful melody while the other son blows his bagpipes in the background.

The baby stares at the red-capped boy with a huge smile, holding a silver spoon.

The son, peeking in from the window, and two other children on the right side of the painting are smoking long pipes.

In the foreground of this warm painting, the sister pours a glass of wine for her brother.

Animal lovers and kids can also spot a cute dog at the front of the center table, waiting for some food to fall off! 

Even though the floor is messy, with a frying pan, jug, and plates, the table remains neat with a piece of meat and bread. 

If you look carefully, you will see a painted note hanging from the mantelpiece which reads, “So de ouden songen, so pijpen de jongen.” 

This note translates to, “As the old song, so shall the young Twitter.”

The author hides a moral meaning in this phrase, which you will learn more about in the article as you read ahead! 

Where & When to see this Painting in the Rijksmuseum? 

The Merry Family Painting is on display in the Gallery of Honors at Rijksmuseum!

The gallery is on the museum’s second floor and is one of the most popular exhibition areas. 

The Gallery is always crowded, so it would be best to explore it right after the museum opens at 9 am for the least crowd. 

You can also have a calming visit in the afternoon after 3.30 pm and enjoy exploring till 5 pm when the museum closes!  

Do I need a ticket to see The Merry Family Painting?

Do I need a ticket to see The Merry Family Painting?
Image: Rijksmuseum.nl

You must have Rijksmuseum entry tickets to access the Gallery of Honors, where the painting is on display.

Tickets must be bought online, as they are not available at the entrance of the Rijksmuseum.

The standard Rijksmuseum ticket allows adults to access all the permanent exhibitions in the museum for €24.

Children 18 years and younger can enjoy free exploration of the Rijksmuseum! 

History buffs and art lovers who want to know more about its history and art techniques used should take a Rijksmuseum guided tour for €45! 

The Backstory of Jan Steen’s Rijksmuseum Artwork

Jan Steen completed this homely masterpiece in 1668.

It gained popularity as the painting of realistic home scenes was famous in the 17th century.

Artists believe he used his family and eight kids as models for the Merry Family painting!

The painting provides a moral message by showing the close family life Dutch people led in the 17th century.

However, experts say Jan Steen created a fake portrayal of a happy Dutch Family.

He wanted to give a valuable message through his paintings and hid humor and irony in his paintings.

The Psychology Behind Steen’s Happy Family in the Painting 

Jan Steen’s moral message, “As the old song, so shall the young Twitter,” in the painting has psychological references! 

Developmental psychologists like Jean Piaget believe that in early childhood, parents influence kids, who copy all their actions.

They do not know the difference between right and wrong, so they follow their parents as an example.

The children in the painting also find it easier to imitate their parents!

You can see the kids imitate the indulgences of the father.

They drink wine and smoke on pipes, which might harm their health in the future. 

The father is also a musical teacher to the children, as they follow his lead in song. 

As you can see, the grandmother fits into the family and enjoys singing and merry-making.

Her easy actions symbolize the continuous generational influence.

We can see through the parents’ behavior that they learned the same things from her and now pass it on to their kids!

Jan Steen also highlights the family’s intimate relationship, showing that the children live happy social lives like their parents. 

The children don’t fight and share their things, a learned behavior as they do not live in wealthy households.

The family is happy and carefree only because of what they learned from their parents! 

Jan Steen wonders if parents influence kids, what will happen to the future if they learn bad habits?

This message gives the viewer much to think about when seeing the Merry Family painting in Rijksmuseum.

Jan Steen’s Artistic Techniques in the Merry Family

Jan Steen’s Artistic Techniques in the Merry Family
Image: Rijksmuseum.nl

Jan Steen uses warm colors like yellows, reds, and browns to give viewers a warm, home-like feeling from the painting.

The Jan Steen Rijksmuseum paintings and others have realistic human figures, as he was the master of human anatomy!

He always painted people moving in fluid motions, interacting with each other. 

You can also see the joy-filled emotions on all the figure’s faces, which fits the title of the painting. 

Jan Steen has also mastered the art of playing with light and shadows, called Chiaroscuro!

This technique of light and shadow gave the family a 3D life-like appearance. 

Other Paintings Like the Merry Family! 

Did you know that Rijksmuseum Amsterdam has a homey family painting like the Merry Family?

The Feast of St. Nicholas in the Gallery of Honors has the same lively atmosphere.

It depicts a family of parents, grandparents, and kids in the streets of the Netherlands. 

They are celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas in honor of Santa Claus, and every kid receives a gift!

This painting tells a different story but provides the same warmth and moral teachings. 

You can also see the famous As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young, which has the same vibe and moral message as the Merry Family!

This painting is on display at the Hague and is part of the Mauritshuis collection

How did Jan Steen’s Life Influence his Familial Paintings? 

Jan Steen was born in the Netherlands in 1626 into a Catholic family that ran a tavern.

Most of his happy paintings imitate the happy and fun environment of taverns.

The theatre had a significant influence on the Rijksmuseum Jan Steen’s art!

He also used many famous English and Dutch literary proverbs to enhance his paintings. 

You can see a use of the proverb, “As the old song, so shall the young Twitter,” in this Rijksmuseum Jan Steen gem. 

His works finally gave birth to a new Dutch proverb that got the name of a Jan Steen household in English.

Whenever people came across a happy, chaotic family, they called it a Jan Steen household! 

Even though he was most famous for his lifestyle paintings, he painted mythological, religious, historical, and self-portraits.

Helpful Tips to See Jan Steen’s Work in Rijksmuseum 

Since the painting is in the Gallery of Honors, here are some tips to help first-time visitors have a fun experience!

  • Book your Rijksmuseum tickets online in advance. Booking tickets online ensures you can choose your preferred time slot.
  • Begin your exploration from the Gallery of Honors to avoid crowds early in the morning.
  • Most of Jan Steen Rijksmuseum’s artworks are in the Gallery of Honors.  Only one of his paintings is in room 2.25.
  • When exploring the Rijksmuseum, follow a schedule to avoid confusion.
  • Take advantage of the tickets, which have access to all rooms. See famous exhibits by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch artists! 

FAQs on The Merry Family Painting 

  1. What is the message behind Rijksmusuem’s Merry Family painting?

    The moral of Rijksmuseum’s Merry Family painting is that kids copy the actions and behaviors of their parents. The parents are responsible for ensuring their children learn good things from them. 

  2. What is the Jan Steen Rijksmuseum ticket price? 

    The standard entry ticket price for Rijksmuseum costs €24, providing access to all permanent museum exhibitions. Kids below 19 years of age can enter for free! 

  3. Who painted the Merry Family in Rijksmuseum?

    Jan Steen painted The Merry Family, which is in Rijksmuseum. 

  4. What is the proverb translation in the Merry Family painting?

    This Dutch proverb, “So de ouden songen, so pijpen de jongen,” translates to As the old song, so shall the young Twitter in English. 

  5. Where are Jan Steen’s works in the Rijksmuseum?

    Besides the Woman at her Toilet painting in room 2.25, all other works by Jan Steen are in the Gallery of Honors. 

  6. What techniques did Jan Steen use in the Merry Family painting?

    Jan Steen used the Chiaroscuro technique of light and shadow in his painting. He was excellent at painting realistic human figures with perfect anatomy. His warm colors and fluid movements give the painting an intimate and fun energy. 

  7. Who are the people in Jan Steen’s Merry Family painting? 

    People believe that his family and kids inspire the characters in Jan Steen’s painting. As he was a theatre fan, there is a widespread belief that theatrical characters inspire them. 

  8. How many paintings by Jan Steen are in the Rijksmuseum?

    The Rijksmuseum has six paintings by Jan Steen on display. The most famous are the Merry Family and the Feast of St. Nicholas. 

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Featured Image: Rijksmuseum.nl

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