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'Merrymaking in a Tavern' combines the Flemish tradition of low-life tavern scenes with the more elegant Dutch merry companies. The lively description of the domestic muddle of mothers, children, dancers, drinkers and onlookers vividly conveys the atmosphere of good-natured homely confusion which is still commemorated today in the modern Dutch phrase ‘a Jan Steen household’. A young dancing couple to the right and an older quarrelsome couple on the left act as a warning of where dancing might lead. A variety of human life is depicted throughout the rest of the painting, with an old woman praying next to a young boy, an amorous seated couple, a group of men drinking and a mother, baby and crouching boy: each an example of human conduct at different ages.

The Wallace Collection



Merrymaking in a Tavern


probably 1674


oil on canvas


H 73.3 x W 65.9 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1866; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

Work type



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The Wallace Collection

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, Greater London W1U 3BN England

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