The flemish painting throughout many centuries has always had a thematic field dedicated to costumbrist images, in which the protagonists present us with scenes of the most everyday, always very spontaneous and in which an atmosphere of joy is usually breathed. Something that went back even to many medieval miniatures, as can be seen in Charlemagne's Book of Conquests illustrated by Tavernier. Although it would be later with Pieter Brueghel the Elder when it would reach its maximum expression with works such as The Villagers' Wedding. A work with which this Christening Feast made in 1664 by Jan Steen has great parallels.
Steen's Christening Party
In fact, Jan Steen (1626 – 1679) would be the 17th century equivalent of Brueghel, and he would bring genre painting to perfection during theDutch Baroque. Interestingly, Steen's painting is very different from that of his father-in-law Jan Van Goyen, who with works such as A Windmill by a River is one of the greatest representatives of another of the emblematic fields of traditional Flemish painting: landscaping.
And another fun fact aboutSteen, is that he wasn't a full-time artist. In reality, his paintings did not give him a living, so he actually made a living as an innkeeper. and therefore he isIt is easy to imagine that a scene like the one presented to us at the Christening Party was seen by him with his own eyes, while attending the banquet.
Many of his works are understood given that professional occupation, which would be a continuous torrent of inspiration from which his paintings full of joy, clichés and humorous details that are a constant in his work would later emerge of him.
In this case you see a room full of people, in which you can see the woman who has just had a child and next to her the cradle for the baby. It is the father who proudly holds the child in his arms, while friends and family surround him. It is a scene of great joy, very easy to watch and understand.
But in addition to the theme itself and the enjoyment of life that it conveys to us, it must be said that Jan Steen was a true master of painting. To create this scene full of characters and in a reduced space, a studied composition is manifested, in which all of them are arranged around the table, and even places a woman who clearly has her back to us. This woman occupies the foreground of the painting and powerfully draws attention, not only because of the colors of her clothing, but also because of her resounding volume and her pictorial quality. In short, Steen is one of the great painters of the Dutch Baroque, a time in which he coincided with geniuses of the stature of Rembrandt orVermeer, so his talent has sometimes been overshadowed in the Art History manuals.