Collection Online

The wedding party
(c. 1667-1668)

oil on wood panel
45.5 × 37.3 cm
inscribed in black paint l.r.: JS (monogram) tEEn
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Mr James Fairfax, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1992
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Collection of Joan Hendrik van Heemskerk (1689–1730), The Hague, before 1730; then to his widow, Anna Petronella van Heemskerk (1693–1765/66, née van Schuylenburg), until her death, 1765/66; Van Heemskerk estate, until 1770; included in the van Heemskerk sale (Lugt 1818), Rietmulder, The Hague, 29 March 1770, no. 110 as Een Boeren-Bruiloft, hoog 18 breed 14 duim; from where purchased by Cornelis van Heemskerck; included in Heemskerck sale, The Hague, 18 November 1783, no. 3; from where purchased by Louis-Bernard Coclers (1741–1817); collection of Van Cranenburgh, Amsterdam, before 1823; collection of Colonel Anthony Meynts (1747–1823), before 1823; included in the Meynts sale, Amsterdam, 15 July 1823, no. 118; bought Chrétien-Jean Nieuwenhuys (1799–1883, dealer-collector), and by whom imported into England, 1823; collection of Lord Charles Vere Ferrars Townshend (1785–1853), London, by 1824– until c. 1833; collection of William Wells (1768–1847), Redleaf Park, near Penthurst, Kent, by 1833–47; included in Wells' estate sale, Christie & Manson, London, 12–13 May, 1848, no. 92, as A company of villagers in a room; from where purchased by W. B. Tiffin (dealer), Canonbury, 1848; with W. B. Tiffin, Canonbury, until (before 1877); collection of C. J. Nieuwenhuys (dealer-collector) before 1883; Nieuwenhuys sale, Christie's, London, 17 July 1886, no. 98; from which purchased by Galerie Sedelmeyer (dealer), Paris; collection of Maurice Kann (d. 1906), Paris, before 1906; Estate of Maurice Kann 1906–11; included in the Kann sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 9 June 1911, no. 69 as La Noce; purchased by S. Altmann (dealer); collection of Eugène Fischhof, Paris; included in his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 14 June 1913, no. 64; collection of Marcus Kappel (1839–1919), Berlin, by 1914–19; probably by descent to his grandchildren Ellen Ettlinger (1902–94, nee Rathenau) and Ernest (or Ernst) G. Rathenau (1897–1987), Berlin and London, by 1931; with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1946; from where purchased by R.P. Silcock, Lancashire, 1947; by descent to A. Duckworth, before 1974; purchased by Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1974; purchased by James Fairfax, Bowral, New South Wales, 1977; collection of James Fairfax, Bowral and Sydney, 1977–92; presented through the Art Foundation of Victoria to the National Gallery of Victoria, 1992.

The wedding party has the dynamic movement of figures and the free, illusionistic brushstrokes that are characteristic of Jan Steen’s style of the late 1660s. Steen portrays a wedding celebration taking place at an inn. The unequal marriage between a young woman and an old, wealthy man, which we see through an archway, in a back room, is paralleled in the foreground by another, equally ill-matched couple. By portraying two pairs of poorly matched spouses, Steen indicates that marriages should be based not on financial interest but on love between partners who are equal in age and socioeconomic standing.