"As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)

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Soo voer gesongen, soo na gepepen is a c.1668–1670 oil-on-canvas painting (H 133.7 cm × W 162.5 cm) by Dutch artist Jan Steen, that is currently featured in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_0

The painting is a celebratory holiday scene that depicts three generations of a Dutch family, and serves as an allegory about parental examples, vice, and influence. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_1

This subject has been painted thirteen times by Jan Steen and has also been known as The Cat Family, or Jan Steen's Family. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_2

Of the many renditions, the Mauritshuis version is considered to be the exemplar of the series. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_3

Subject matter "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_section_0

The holiday scene depicts the proverb of "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" and deliberately alludes to the fact the elders in a family have certain traits that recur in subsequent generations. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_4

Inherited traits were viewed by the Dutch people at the time as being a two-sided coin, where a child would inherit genetic traits from their parents, but would also learn to emulate the behaviors that they witnessed. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_5

This is also referred to as nature versus nurture. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_6

The depiction of three generations of family members in this scene is a direct allusion to this idea, with the parents providing seemingly poor examples to their children by drinking alcoholic beverages and encouraging the children to smoke. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_7

The title can also be interpreted as "Like father, like son." "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_8

Such proverbs were popular in Dutch painting and are represented by many paintings by Steen and other artists. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_9

This painting has been linked to Steen's work titled The Twelfth Night Feast, the two paintings forming a diptych of the same theme. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_10

The theme is thought to be inspired by Jacob Jordaens, a contemporary Flemish painter. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_11

Jordaen's version preceded Steen's, having been painted in the year 1683 . "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_12

Like Jordaens, Steen paired proverbs with merry company paintings, which was popular and served a didactic purpose for the viewer. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_13

Description "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_section_1

As a genre scene, the painting contains many iconographic elements that are open to the viewer's interpretation and ideas that relate to Dutch popular culture of the time. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_14

The painting consists of a gathering of family members (parents, children, grandparents) around a table that is draped with a carpet typical of Dutch scenes. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_15

Though the subject has been painted by Steen an estimated thirteen times, each one was depicted in a household setting as the theme for child rearing and parental interaction. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_16

Like most of Steen's paintings As the Old Sing... is of the merry company genre and depicts family life as a part of popular culture during the 17th century. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_17

Paintings of this particular period are commonly festive scenes in Dutch domestic settings. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_18

The large canvas displays Steen's mastery of painting light on surfaces, as can be seen in the treatment of light from the window reflected onto the surfaces of the models' clothing and furniture accents. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_19

The facial features of the subjects are painted in a realistic style with attention to light and shadow. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_20

The overall scene of the merry atmosphere is thought to be open and inviting with the figures situated in an open arrangement, with warm colors of orange, pink, purple, and brown; while casually enjoying themselves. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_21

The old lady in the foreground, thought to be Steen's mother, is holding a sheet of music that is open and can be easily read by the viewer. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_22

Steen is distinguished as a skilled comic painter and for depicting himself in his paintings, as well as members of his own family. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_23

Here he has depicted himself as the father seen in the right side of the canvas who is teaching his younger son to smoke a pipe. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_24

Such a painting was thought by the artist to have universal appeal and understanding, but of course, it would have had more resonance with a well-read person familiar with the proverbs, symbolism, and culture of the seventeenth century. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_25

Ironically, Steen's knowledge of such readings and traditions is considered to be rather sophisticated. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_26

Symbolism "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_section_2

The figures in the scene are Steen at the right wearing a black hat and teaching his younger son to smoke, his older son playing a bagpipe, a young girl at the far right edge of the canvas, Steen's mother in the right-side foreground, and an unknown female family member holding a baby. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_27

There is also a male servant at the rear center who is pouring an alcoholic drink into the glass of Steen's wife, who is pictured at the left of the canvas wearing a green coat and lavender skirt with her glass outstretched. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_28

There is a dog in the foreground. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_29

At the center of the table is an oyster which has been a popular symbol in Dutch genre painting. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_30

The oyster has been known as a symbol of Aphrodite, love, fertility, and sexual pleasure. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_31

The symbol is befitting of such as scene as it is associated with foods served at a feast of the gods. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_32

The oyster was commonly depicted in Dutch genre paintings up until the year 1635 when it became less common. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_33

After the year 1660 the symbol again became a common theme as it is here in Steen's 1668–1670 painting. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_34

In the painting the woman in the lavender skirt sitting at the left is a depiction of Steen's wife. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_35

She and Steen both wear a pink ribbon, she in her hair, and he on his hat. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_36

This ribbon is a unifying element between the two and represents their being cut from the same spool of ribbon. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_37

The parrot situated at the top left of the painting is a symbol of mimicry. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_38

To the left of the parrot is a pair of birds in a small birdcage which symbolizes two parents in a small abode. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_39

The pipe in the scene may have multiple meanings referring to a clay smoking pipe, the act of singing, or to a drinking vessel. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_40

According to the Dutch, the bagpipe was not an esteemed instrument as it was thought to be lowly and obnoxious. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_41

Such a symbol here represents bawdiness and low class, which is being encouraged by the parents. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_42

The young man playing the bagpipe is an older son of Steen. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_43

The laughing face of Jan Steen is commonly depicted by the artist in his paintings and is considered to be his iconography while laughter is also thought to be a symbol of foolishness and or fault. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_44

A reader might interpret the many laughing faces as gained wisdom, human fault, or lessons learned. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_45

Steen's iconographic grin has become somewhat of a folk character to museum patrons who delight in seeing his face in paintings. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_46

Culture "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_section_3

Steen has been detailed by historians as being from a middle-class, Catholic family of Leiden, who was also preoccupied with drinking and imprudent of his finances. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_47

Historical accounts state that Steen's father owned a brewery but also suggest that the brewery business became less profitable due to economic demands and competition. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_48

As a result, Steen was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in painting, which was a respected profession of the time. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_49

From his experience as a painter Steen endured constant fluctuations of financial difficulty. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_50

As a painter he often depicted himself within his comical scenes to show himself immersed in the culture he depicted and is also as an allusion to the idea that art imitates life. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_51

Steen was a resident of The Hague where he married Margariet or Grietje, and also became a member of The Hague Guild. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_52

As a member of the guild Steen is thought to have pursued comic painting as the path to a chosen specialization. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_53

Patronage "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_section_4

Steen is considered to have been a fixture in Leiden, with most of his commissions coming from familial connections and recommendations. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_54

Historical records indicate patrons numbering above one hundred, with some owners directly inheriting the works. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_55

Patrons tended to be members of respectable professions including doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, manufacturers, and an innkeeper. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_56

The presence of Steen's likeness in his paintings has been a dealbreaker for some patrons and it has also functioned as a signature. "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen)_sentence_57


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/"As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (Jan Steen).