Jan Havicksz SteenThe dancing lesson

The dancing lesson

(1660-1679) These children are up to mischief: they are teaching a cat to dance to the music of a shawm, a 17th-century wind instrument. While they are clearly enjoying them-selves, the cat screeches in protest, joined by a barking dog. The old man at the window angrily rebukes the children: should they not be learning something rather than giving dancing lessons to a cat?


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The wealth of motifs and humorous vignettes in Jan Steen’s paintings often overshadow his great artistic flair. Steen’s mastery lies both in his subtle colour combinations and in his rendering of different kinds of textures. The colour scheme of this painting is fairly drab and grey: only the clothing of the woman in the middle is rendered in delicate shades of violet and green.