Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jan Steen - Girl Eating Oysters

Jan Steen - Girl Eating Oysters (ca. 1658-1660, Mauritshuis, The Hague)

This is the smallest painting Jan Steen ever made. A young woman (Grietje van Goyen) looks at us coquettishly while sprinkling salt on an oyster. Spread out on the table before her is a beautifully painted still life, consisting of oysters, a Delft blue pitcher next to a glass of wine, and a silver tray containing a half-eaten roll, a little mound of salt and peppercorns spilling out of a paper cone. More oysters are being prepared in the kitchen in the background.

In those days oysters were thought to be an aphrodisiac. Steen alludes to these erotic connotations, making it seem as though this women offers not just oysters but herself as well. As if not wanting to leave us in any doubt, Steen drops yet another hint: behind the woman is a bed with closed curtains.

(source: Mauritshuis)

next episode: Liberation!


  1. What a vivid and sharp painting that is, very lovely, and mostly unique is that amazing expression, as though we've been caught looking in!

  2. I’m not familiar with this one but the detail is amazing and yes, the look is definitely speaking volumes.

  3. Hello, I recently found this painting among things my mom was given from a now deceased patient. How can I know if what I have is real as I read someplace that a painting of this is hanging already in a museum. Did she paint more of them? I know I could quite possibly have a reprint but I don't want to take the backing off the frame just yet


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