Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark, (New Haven, 1975), 236.
In this respect, the range of Steen’s history paintings differs little from that of his genre scenes, in which he painted both quietly reflective images (JS-116) and raucous scenes that emphasize the foibles of human behavior (JS-103).
In 1671, the same year that Steen painted this work, the story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia was once again introduced in a text that Steen would have known, Joost van den Vondel’s Dutch translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. However Ovid’s text, which appears in book 12, only briefly mentions Iphigenia’s sacrifice, so it is unlikely that his account affected Steen’s interpretation of the story. It is unlikely that Steen referred to Joost van den Vondel’s play Ifigenie in Tauren, 1666. Vondel’s play, a translation of Euripides, deals with a later episode in the life of Iphigenia: the period in which she was entrusted, as a priestess in Tauris, with the task of sacrificing strangers to Diana. Vondel’s play gives only a short summary of Iphigenia’s earlier life, and there is no mention of the prophecy of Calchas, or of the dilemma faced by her father.
Samuel Coster, Iphigenia–Treurspel (1617) in R. A. Kollewijn, ed., Samuel Coster’s werken (Haarlem, 1883); see pp. 223–24 for Coster’s introduction, in which he outlines his play. On the importance of Samuel Coster, see Mieke B. Smits-Veld, Samuel Coster, ethicus-didacticus (Groningen 1986).
Around 1668 Steen discovered the possibilities offered by chintz in the rendering of colorful still-life details. See, for example, his Samson and Delilah of 1668 in Los Angeles and his Marriage of Tobias and Sarah in San Francisco (H. Perry Chapman, Wouter Th. Kloek, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Jan Steen, Painter and Storyteller, ed. Guido Jansen (Exh. cat. Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum) (New Haven and London, 1996), nos. 34, 45. Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis has kindly identified the chintz. On the subject of chintz, see E. Hartkamp-Jonxis, Sits: Oost-west relaties in textiel (Zwolle, 1987).
Steen made a drawing of that subject and used it, with some adjustments, for the painting in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The painting is generally dated to ca. 1670; the drawing was probably made slightly earlier. The authenticity of the drawing is not undisputed. It is assumed that it was produced under the master’s supervision by a pupil in his studio; see Wouter Kloek, Jan Steen 1626–1679 (Zwolle, 2005), 47–49. See also A. van Suchtelen, In het Mauritshuis: Jan Steen (The Hague, 2011), 18–21, where the drawing’s authenticity is not doubted.
Today the design is attributed to Francesco Salviati. See Wouter Th. Kloek, Jan Steen 1626–1679 (Zwolle, 2005), 65–66.
Steen often showed off his grounding in art by borrowing images from his illustrious predecessors. See Mariët Westermann, The Amusements of Jan Steen (Zwolle, 1997), chap. 5, and Wouter Th. Kloek, Jan Steen 1626–1679 (Zwolle, 2005), 67–73. In addition to Pieter Bruegel, Lucas van Leyden, Adriaen van Ostade, Rembrandt, and Raphael, Michelangelo, too, thus deserves a place in Steen’s gallery of past masters who served as his role models.
Van Heemskerck’s friends included Constantijn Huygens, who wrote several poems for him, presumably as a token of gratitude for engraved glasses. In 1677 Huygens honored him with a poem devoted to the painter Maria van Oosterwijck and her maidservant and pupil, Geertje Pieters (see 1677:027).
Ingrid Moerman, “Kalligrafie: echte nationale dilettantenkunst,”Nieuw Letterkundig Magazijn16 (1998): 23. For an assessment of his glass engravings, see: P. C. Ritsema van Eck and H. M. Zijlstra-Zweens, Glass in the Rijksmuseum, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1993–95).
Van Heemskerck’s grandfather was burgomaster of the city of Leiden and his wife was a granddaughter of the Leiden painter and burgomaster Isaac Claesz van Swanenburgh, who occupied a key position in the artistic life of Leiden around 1600. Nevertheless, it would seem that, for financial reasons, Van Heemskerck could not have played a role as a patron until relatively late in his life. As early as 1641, he declared bankruptcy as a cloth manufacturer, and even though he served at various times as dean or senior officer of the cloth finishers’ guild from 1645 onward, he continued for a long time to be plagued by financial difficulties. By the 1670s, however, he seems to have put such troubles behind him.
See Mariët Westermann, “Steen’s Comic Fictions,” in H. Perry Chapman, Wouter Th. Kloek, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Jan Steen, Painter and Storyteller, ed. Guido Jansen (Exh. cat. Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum) (New Haven and London, 1996), 63, where she argues that by “casting his history paintings of the late 1660s and 1670s in deliberately retardataire, non-classicist modes, Steen created a comic mode of history that was consistent with his identity as a comic artist.”
Only in 1702 was a playhouse opened in Leiden. It was the second permanent theater in Holland, after that of Amsterdam.
Anna de Haas, De wetten van het treurspel: Over ernstig toneel in Nederland, 1700–1772 (Hilversum, 1998), 209–13.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark (New Haven, 1975), 109–10. Although Reynolds might already have seen Steen’s Sacrifice of Iphigenia by this time (after the sale in Leiden in 1771, it was sent to London, where it appeared at auction again in 1773), it is more likely that he did not see the piece until a later time.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark (New Haven, 1975), 236.