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(b Leiden, 1625/6; bur. Leiden, 3 Feb. 1679). Dutch painter. He is best known for his humorous genre scenes, warm-hearted and animated works in which he treats life as a vast comedy of manners. In Holland he ranks next to Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals in popularity and the expression a ‘Jan Steen household’ has become part of the Dutch language to describe the kind of lively, untidy home depicted in so many of his paintings. According to Houbraken, Steen's ‘paintings are like his way of life and his way of life like his paintings’, and in his biography he concentrates on the ‘buffoonery’ of his work. This, however, gives a misleadingly one-sided view of Steen, for he has many other facets. He painted portraits, historical, mythological, and religious subjects (he was a Catholic), and the animals, birds, and still-life details in his pictures rival those by any of his specialist contemporaries.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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