Mental Floss

Feel Art Again: "The Feast of St. Nicholas"

Andréa Fernandes
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To celebrate Christmas, let's revisit Jan Steen's "The Feast of St. Nicholas." In the Netherlands, children set their shoes out on December 5, the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, and wake up on December 6 to shoes filled with toys and goodies. Jan Steen's painting depicts the morning of St. Nicholas' feast in a traditional Dutch household.

1. "The Feast of St. Nicholas" is only one of at least six scenes that Jan Steen painted of St. Nicholas' feast day. This one is almost 3 feet high and just over 2 feet wide.

2. Steen was born into a strong Catholic family that ran a tavern, The Red Halbert. When Steen was about 28, he ran his own brewery, De Roscam (The Curry Comb), but with little success.

3. After moving into the household of landscape painter Jan van Goyen, Steen married van Goyen's daughter, Margriet. The two had 8 children together. Steen later had a ninth child with a second wife, Maria van Egmont, after Margriet died.

4. Steen was quite prolific, creating approximately 800 paintings during his lifetime. Roughly 350 of those paintings survive today.

5. Unlike some artists, Steen was reasonably well-paid and his work was valued by his contemporaries, yet he never had any official students.

"˜Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.