Twelfth-Night Feast

Jan Havicksz. Steen (Dutch, 1626–1679)


Overall: 131.1 x 164.5cm (51 5/8 x 64 3/4in.) Framed: 155.6 x 188.6 cm (61 1/4 x 74 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery (Gallery 242)





Twelfth Night is observed in early January, marking the end of the Christmas season and beginning of Epiphany. It celebrates the arrival (twelve days after Christ’s birth) of the Three Kings, led by a star to the newborn Jesus. Here Steen depicts the jovial atmosphere of a prosperous Dutch family’s celebrations. Notice the painting’s many details: egg shells litter the floor where children play with candles symbolic of the Kings, while at the table, adults carouse as a boy offers the little “king” a bite of his holiday waffle.


Lower center, on bench: JSteen / 1662 (J and S joined)


1667, probably Hendrick Bugge van Ring (d. 1667), Leyden [see note 1]. 1806, possibly George Crawford, London; April 26, 1806, possibly Crawford sale, Christie's, London, lot 23, to Jackson, Chelsea; April 8, 1807, possibly Jackson sale, Christie's, London, lot 117, bought in [see note 2]. 1931, Henry Hirsch, London; June 12, 1931, Hirsch sale, Christie's, London, lot 22, bought in; May 11, 1934, Hirsch sale, Christie's, London, lot 144, to H. van Praagh, The Hague [see note 3]. August, 1934, Firma D. Katz, Dieren, near Arnhem [see note 4]. December, 1934, private collection, The Netherlands [see note 5]. By 1938, Mrs. Jacques Coenraad (Elisabeth Hijman) Hartogs (b. 1871 - d. 1958), Arnhem; by 1940, ownership passed jointly to her foster daughters, Regina Freund van den Bergh, London, and Carola Freund van den Bergh, Northwood, England [see note 6]; February, 1953, sold by Van den Bergh, London, to Schaeffer Galleries, New York (stock no. 1544) [see note 7]; 1954, sold by Schaeffer Galleries to the MFA for $45,000. (Accession Date: March 11, 1954)

[1] In the 1667 inventory of Hendrick Bugge van Ring's collection is "a large piece being a merrymaking on Three Kings' evening" by Jan Steen. The painting at the MFA is the only version of the theme Steen painted before 1667 that can be described as large, and is therefore probably the one listed. See Mariët Westermann, "The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the Seventeenth Century" (Zwolle: Waanders, 1997), p. 64. It was not, however, in the 1710 inventory of Hendrick's grandson, Jacob van Ring.

[2] At the time the painting was acquired it was identified with Steen's version of the theme from the Craufurd (or Crawford) collection, described in the 1806 sale catalogue as "'Le Roi boit.' A domestic scene of mirth and noise; recommended by diversity and strength of character and infinite humour. The execution is in his most vigorous style. Truly capital." Since the dimensions of this painting are not given it is difficult to identify it securely with the MFA version.

[3] The buyer's name is annotated in a copy of the sale catalogue.

[4] The painting was included in the exhibition "Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen door oud Hollandsche en Vlaamsche meesters uit de collectie Katz te Dieren" (Koninklijke Kunstzaal Kleykamp, The Hague, 1934), cat. no. 59 (to which the introduction was written in August, 1934). Information from a photograph on file at the Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, indicates that Katz was the owner of the painting in 1935; however, this has not been confirmed. The painting was lent from a private collection to the Boymans Museum from December, 1934 to January, 1935 (see below, n. 5).

[5] The painting was lent from an anonymous private collection to the "Tentoonstelling van oude en moderne schilderijen" (Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, December 1934 - January 1935), cat. no. 18.

[6] The painting was lent under Mrs. Hartogs's name to the exhibitions "Meesterwerken uit vier eeuwen" (Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, June 25 - October 15, 1938), cat. no. 146; the New York World's Fair (May - October, 1939), cat. no. 362; and "Loan Exhibition of Great Paintings. Five Centuries of Dutch Art" (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, March 9 - April 9, 1944), cat. no. 70. By 1940, ownership of the painting passed to her two foster daughters, Carla and Regina Freund, who married Frits van den Bergh and Jaap van den Bergh, respectively. Their ownership is confirmed by a letter from Mrs. Hartogs to Wilhelm Valentiner at the Detroit Institute of Arts (May 31, 1940), in whose custody the painting was at the time. (Valentiner papers, Detroit Institute of Arts, VAL 49, Folder 4).

[7] Information taken from the Schaeffer Galleries stock card, held by the Getty Research Institute (Schaeffer Galleries Records, box 8). Schaeffer was the American agent of the dealer Katz, and by 1940 both Katz and Schaeffer were holding works of art for Mrs. Hartogs (confirmed by letters from the Valentiner papers, as above, n. 6).

Credit Line

1951 Purchase Fund