The Drawing Lesson
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Jan Steen
Dutch, 1665
Oil on panel

19 3/8 x 16 1/4 in.

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In this allegory of the status of the artist and the nature of his profession, a male artist instructs two pupils: a young boy and a fashionably dressed young woman. A plaster cast of a sculpture of a nude male seems to be the object of the day's exercise in how to draw, but the studio is filled with many other props and materials.

On the table are pens, brushes, charcoal pencils, and a woodcut depicting the head of an old man. Several plaster casts hang from a shelf that supports a sculpture of an ox, the symbol of Saint Luke, the patron saint of painters. A plaster putto is suspended from the ceiling in front of a tapestry, which is draped to reveal an easel with a painting and a violin hung on the wall. In the foreground a stretched canvas leans on a chest heaped with a bound album and a carpet. Objects related to the traditional theme of vanitas (vanity), a frequent subject of Dutch still lifes, are piled in the lower right corner. These items--a laurel wreath, a skull, wine, a fur muff, a book, a lute, and a pipe--remind viewers of the brevity of life and fame.

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Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson

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