Quantcast
Videos ()
The Artistic Heritage of Modena: Wounded Art

Close

The Lovesick Maiden

Jan Steen (Dutch, Leiden 1626–1679 Leiden)

Date:
ca. 1660
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
34 x 39 in. (86.4 x 99.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Bequest of Helen Swift Neilson, 1945
Accession Number:
46.13.2
  • Gallery Label

    Doctors were familiar targets of parody in Steen's native Leiden, the home of a famous medical school. Borrowing from the comic stage, Steen identifies the old man as a quack by his peculiar clothing, while the nature of the young lady's malady is suggested by the Cupid over the door, and other intimations like the open bed. The picture dates about 1660.

  • Catalogue Entry

    In this picture, a doctor dressed in outmoded attire has been summoned to diagnose a young woman's mysterious malady. As in other works by Steen (such as The Doctor's Visit of ca. 1663 in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati), the woman suffers from lovesickness. This affliction is alluded to by the statuette of Cupid over the doorway, the bedwarmer and basket at lower left, the open bed, and, most explicitly, by the pair of dogs copulating in the foyer. Though the meaning of the work is obvious, Steen probably intended some viewers (or the first owner of the picture, with whom the matter may have been discussed) to appreciate the resemblance between the lovesick maiden and Albrecht Dürer's famous personification of Melancholia (MMA. 43.106.1; see Images). That the painter is referring to the print is suggested not only by the woman's pose and expression, but also by his inclusion of a Cupid and a sleeping dog.

    As many of Steen's contemporaries would have realized, the lady's distress is a form of melancholy induced by an imbalance of the four humors. Erotic melancholy was detected by feeling the pulse, which revealed the state of the heart, while uroscopy (the visual examination of urine) was employed to discover the same disorder or detect pregnancy. Though urinalysis was practiced by respected physicians in the seventeenth century, quack doctors used flasks of urine like crystal balls. In this work, the bottle in the lidded basket must be intended for a urine specimen. Music was considered beneficial for the treatment of melancholy, and it is probably for this reason that Steen included a nude male figure playing a violin—undoubtedly Apollo—in the area of tapestry (now abraded) immediately above the doctor. Thus Cupid and Apollo form a discordant chorus in the background, in a decorative mode of commentary typical of Steen.

    The subject, which Steen depicted at least nineteen times, might be considered a Leiden specialty: Gerrit Dou, Frans van Mieris, and Gabriël Metsu are among the other local artists who depicted quack doctors attending dispirited women in paintings dating from the mid-1650s through the 1660s. Steen's treatment of the theme falls within the same period; the MMA work has been dated convincingly to about 1660. Artists from other cities, such as Samuel van Hoogstraten, Michiel van Musscher, and Jacob Ochtervelt, also addressed the subject, which had been featured on the comic stage for well over a century. The popularity of doctors as figures of amusement, however, must also reflect the prominence of the medical faculty at Leiden University, where doctors from all over the Netherlands as well as from other countries received their training.

    [2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): i STEEN

  • Provenance

    Pieter Ietswaart, Amsterdam (until 1759; his anonymous sale, Amsterdam, March 13, 1759, no. 3, for fl. 130); Pieter de La Court van der Voort, Leiden (until 1772; his sale, Amsterdam, August 26, 1772, no. 4, for fl. 350 to ?de Neuville); sale, Amsterdam, June 21ff., 1774, no. 206, for fl. 250 to ?Fouquet; Johan Fredrik Motte, Amsterdam (until 1794; his sale, Amsterdam, August 20–21, 1794, no. 107, for fl. 172 to Fouquet); ?Pierre Fouquet, Amsterdam; private collection, Brunswick, Germany (sold to Van Diemen); [Galerie Van Diemen, Berlin, in 1920]; Mrs. Francis (Helen Swift) Neilson, Chicago (by 1924–d. 1945)

  • Exhibition History

    Art Institute of Chicago. "Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–September 2, 1924, no catalogue? (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Francis Neilson).

    Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," December 1, 1948–January 23, 1949, no catalogue.

    Madison. Memorial Union Gallery, University of Wisconsin. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," February 15–March 30, 1949, unnumbered cat.

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," April 24–June 30, 1949, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 122.

    University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley. "Dutch Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 25, 1969–January 4, 1970, checklist no. 18.

    Houston. Rice University. "Dutch Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 18–March 1, 1970, checklist no. 18.

    Tokyo National Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 10–October 1, 1972, no. 83.

    Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 8–November 26, 1972, no. 83.

    Memphis. Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. "Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 1–June 23, 1982, no catalogue?

    Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Museum of Art. "Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 28–November 28, 1982, no catalogue?

    Hamilton, N.Y. Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 6–April 17, 1983, no. 10.

    Rochester, N.Y. Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 3–June 5, 1983, no. 10.

    Amarillo, Tex. Amarillo Art Center. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 22–July 31, 1983, no. 10.

    Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University. "People at Work: Seventeenth Century Dutch Art," April 17–June 15, 1988, no. 18.

    Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 17.

    Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 14.

    Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 10.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

  • References

    "Summer Loan Exhibitions." Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 18 (September 1924), p. 79, as one of the works currently on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Francis Neilson to a summer loan exhibition at the Art Institute.

    E[duard]. Trautscholdt in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 31, Leipzig, 1937, p. 511.

    Clotilde Brière-Misme. "Un Petit maître hollandais, Cornelis Bisschop (1630–1674), IV Tableaux de genre." Oud-Holland 65, no. 5 (1950), p. 187 n. 1.

    Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 230, no. 122, colorpl. 122.

    John Walsh Jr. "Vermeer." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (Summer 1973), unpaginated, fig. 60, dates it about 1660.

    Karel Braun. Alle tot nu toe bekende schilderijen van Jan Steen. Rotterdam, 1980, p. 127, no. 289, ill., dates it 1667–69.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 338, 344, fig. 610 (color), dates it "1660s?".

    Otto Naumann. Frans van Mieris (1635–1681) the Elder. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1981, vol. 1, p. 106.

    Peter C. Sutton in "Jan Steen: Comedy and Admonition." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 78 (Winter 1982/Spring 1983), p. 23 nn. 7, 8.

    Stephanie Dickey et al. Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University. Hamilton, N.Y., 1983, pp. 9, 30–31, no. 10, ill., dates it about 1660.

    Peter C. Sutton in Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1984, p. 314 nn. 3, 4 [text similar to Ref. Sutton 1982–83].

    Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 265, mentions condition problems.

    Linda Stone-Ferrier in People at Work: Seventeenth Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat., Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University. Hempstead, N.Y., 1988, pp. 17, 25, no. 18, ill.

    Deborah Krohn et al. in From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1992, p. 307, no. 17, ill. (color, overall and detail) [catalogue section unpaginated].

    Walter A. Liedtke in "European and American Paintings." The Taft Museum: Its History and Collections. 1, New York, 1995, p. 173 n. 14.

    Walter Liedtke in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 90–94, no. 14, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 50–53, no. 10, ill. (color, overall and detail)].

    Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, p. 366; vol. 2, pp. 836–41, no. 195, colorpl. 195.



  • Notes

    For Steen's other versions of this subject, see Braun 1980, nos. 154–55, 186, 194, 203, 219, 232, 241–43a, 254, 259, 289 (MMA), 315–18, 331.

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
437748

Close