Jan Steen

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The Doctor's Visit

Steen, Jan

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on panel


In 17th Century Dutch depictions of "scenes from everyday life," the so-called genre paintings, the single most popular medical representation is the "Doctor's Visit." Among the most comical and complex are those of Jan Steen, who painted at least 18 works with this theme. Typically the patient is a young female, often suffering from a variety of illnesses related to love, either "love sickness," erotic melancholy, or pregnancy. [See relevant paintings by Steen at the Web Gallery of Art: "The Doctor and His Patient," "Doctor's Visit," and "Love Sickness," at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/welcome.html. Select "S" from Artist Index, scroll down for Steen, select "Page 1".)

In this painting, the doctor looks with concern at his patient, a young girl, dressed in silk and leaning on a table, as he takes her pulse. Behind her stands a smirking young man who holds a holds a herring in one hand and two small onions in the other. At her feet is an opened letter, alongside a bowl with a piece of burnt ribbon, and a heating box filled with coals, known as a brazier. Behind the physician, a woman playing a harpsichord smiles at the young girl. Behind her, a maidservant beckons a tall, dark, and handsome young man in a red cloak to enter the room.

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