Artwork of the month January

Jan Steen, Maikönigin, n.d.

Jan Steen

*1626 in Leiden, † 1679 in Leiden

 Maikönigin, n.d.

Oil on wood

Gift of Graf Maurice Arnold von Bendern 1968

In his painting, Jan Steen places a young girl in the foreground, whose gazes are fixed with full concentration on a bowl, which she clasps with both hands. The girl is with a group of children who accompany her. The boy behind her holds a lance, decorated with branches, which adjoins nearly the border of the painting. The group just passed an archway, opening a view on a rural area behind. They are all wearing their formal garb. The young girl is the only person in the painting wearing a white garment over her garb. Richly decorated and crowned with a girdle of flowers, she attracts attention to two adults, who warmly smile to her. The girl's head is in the exact middle of the painting. She is not only the main figure of the painting, but also of the main character group.

The motif shows a Dutch tradition whereupon in rural areas children moved with paper flowers from one house to another to collect money for charitable reasons, singing the traditional song of the "bright or proud peony flower". A white dressed, young girl, hold- ing a bowl for the alms in her hands, has led these groups. This procession originated from the celebration of Pentecost and a heathenish tradition to celebrate the beginning of spring with the election of the queen of May.

Folklike traditions have been Jan Steen's favoured motifs. He was known as one of the most popular painters of genre paintings, paintings, which were dedicated to the peo- ple's daily life. The genre is originated in 16th century Netherlands, when painters like Pieter Bruegel used depictions of rural people to allegorize guilty pleasures as crapu- lence and drunkenness. In 17th century Dutch painting, which was called "the Golden Age" due to its cultural and economical success, this instructional allusion disappeared. Now the folk itself became the topic of the paintings, its daily life and its traditions.

<b>Jan Steen, Maikönigin, n.d.</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.