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Twelfth Night-Feast

Jan Steen (1626-1679) was a dutch, baroque era painter, known for his humorous, comical paintings. One of these paintings were called The Twelfth Night Feast. The painting is a still life, contemporary work. The Twelfth Night as well as his other paintings reflected incidences or real life occurrences. He made several paintings of holiday celebrations. He mixed natural colored paint in his still life painting techniques to portray autumn colors, giving the overall background of the picture a image of Christmas celebration; a fall celebration.

The painting techniques give an illuminating essence to a portrait painted with a color that does not stand out, or not really noticeable. Jan Steen’s Twelfth Night Feast, uses unexpected coloring tints and unnoticeable shades with thin lines to make give this still life portrait character, making it stand out from the other Twelfth Night art works. Jan Steens dutch painting, Twelfth Night Feast is a visual interpretation of the traditional, religious holiday everyone in the dutch era held sacred.

As a result, many Twelfth Night themes were reinvented by many artists in several different forms. The fluorescent white colors lining the dark colored clothing, inside the head coverings, the sleeve cuffs gives a bright glow to what would be an ordinary or dull painting. The overall tone of this painting is brown. Everyone in the painting is wearing brown or black, surrounded by an atmosphere of grey green wall. Steen used unusual color techniques very creatively, setting off the blended natural coloring of the overall picture.

One other highlights standing out in the picture is a bright orange colored glowing star within a picture to the far left centering the painting. In the picture, a woman is gazing up a the star, perhaps some type of ritual meaning. Steen was very creative applying special methods painting people and other objects in this still life. He used thin off colored lines to add definition and distinction of all the objects and subject matter in the painting. The off colored lines are unnoticeable to the casual viewer.

The person viewing the portrait does not realize there is a different shade or color, but they do see the distinguishing separation among the people. Especially in these days, it took a lot of imagination and creativity to make very visual separate objects using basically the same color. The painting has lots of detail in it. The clothes, the design on the seat the man is sitting on, the candles with the small flames in front of the children. For some reason, Steen did not add a fluorescent glow to the candles.

The adults sitting around the table were the points Steen emphasized. This painting was showing his artistic talents, more so than another reinvention of the Twelfth Night or telling a moral story. The portrait projects an element of celebration, everyone is very happy, in a joyous festive holiday around the table. In the back it appears this woman is playing the flute, a couple of other people having a drink, everyone is laughing or just contented. To the far left of the picture, a man sits off to the side, writing something.

Could this be an interpretation of Steen at work, being inspired by family gatherings? Looking at the picture, someone would assume Steen was showing off his versatility as a painter. The techniques he used were the beginning of the direction of what we call 3 dimensional, where the emphasis is on the visualness of the painting, instead of the actual objects or overall theme. This would be a terrific painting with a musical flute embedded in the frame, with a soft light over it.

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