French Private Collection
This unrecorded painting by Jan Havicksz Steen presents a woman, dressed in a red skirt with a green top, asleep at a table which is placed in a rather plain interior.
A window at the left side of the panel shows that it is plain day and highlights the face of the sleeping women. Sleeping in broad daylight is rather unusual. The woman is completely committed to the view of the beholder. It is a sleep of exhaustion, giving up control because of Morpheus, who seemes to have taken her this very moment.
The main focus is certainly set on the woman who has fallen asleep on a chair, leaning her head on to the right arm which is placed on a table.
Jan Steen was born in Leiden as the son of a brewer and grain merchant. The date of his birth can not be approved exactly but he was about twenty years old when he enrolled at the Leiden University in 1646.
It is Arnold Houbraken who claims that Jan Steen’s artistic education was undertaken by Jan van Goyen. Furthermore Nicolas Knüpfer in Utrecht as well as Adriaen van Ostade were mentioned as his teachers.
In 1646 Steen married Van Goyen’s daughter Margaretha. By 1661 he moved to Haarlem where he spent nine years during which he achieved many of his greatest paintings. Jan Steen was a painter who frequently used contemporary literature as well as theater as a creative input for his characters and sceneries.
After the death of his wife, the artist moved to Leiden, where he became an inn -keeper.
After a brief sojourn to Delft between 1659 and 1660, the artist lived in Haarlem after 1661 and became a member of the city’s guild. Now his figures take on much larger scale and their narrative dominates the image. His greatest pictures are filled with details and incidents; he develops a tight, clean, almost linear style, sometimes of almost miniature finess and all this we find in the present still life element of dead game and kitchen implements.
Above all, the bawdy subject-matter and moralising symbolism for which Steen was celebrated later are subtly present here.