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Un Univers intime. Paintings from the Frits Lugt Collection
english | français
Jan Steen
(Leiden 1626-1679 Leiden)
The dovecote
Panel, 36.8 x 47.5 cm; signed
Acquired in 1938; inv. 5515

This early painting by Jan Steen, dating from before 1654, shows a dovecote in a Dutch landscape with the façade of a house on the left. The dovecote, which occupies a central place, is seen from below and stands out against the sky. Two starling pots hang at the side. The dovecote may refer to the Dutch expression ‘duiven op zolder houden’ – keeping pigeons in the loft – which essentially means keeping a brothel. Steen often made paintings with a double meaning, so it is quite likely that the building on the left was indeed a house of ill repute. The man drinking beer and the young woman being seduced by an old man also suggest this interpretation.