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The wedding party
(c. 1667-1668)

oil on wood panel
45.5 × 37.3 cm
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
Gallery location
Not on display

Collection of Joan Hendrik van Heemskerk (1689–1730), Gravenhage, 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 Anthony Meynts (Mynts), by 1823 included in Meynts sale, Amsterdam, 15 July, 1823, no. 118 bought Chrétien-Jean Nieuwenhuys, (1799–1883) (dealer-collector) collection of Lord Charles Vere Townshend (1785–1853), London, by 1824 collection of William Wells (1768–1847) of Redleaf Park, near Penthurst, Kent, by 1833 included in Wells' estate sale, Christie &amp 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 with Tiffin, Canonbury, until 1877 Tiffin sale, Christie’s London, 28 May 1877 (Lugt 37521) collection of Chrétien-Jean Nieuwenhuys&nbsp 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 collection of the Kann estate until 1911 included in 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 Estate of Marcus Kappel, until 1931 collection of Georg Rathenau (architect), Berlin, by 1931 loaned to the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam with Thomas Agnew &amp Sons, London, 1946 from where purchased by R.P. Silcock, Lancashire, 1947 by descent to A. Duckworth purchased by Thomas Agnew &amp 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.