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Wine is a Mocker, 1663-64

Jan Steen

Dutch, c.1626-1679
Oil on canvas
34-3/8 x 41-1/4 in. (87.3 x 104.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1969.05.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The inscription above the door is from Proverbs 20:1, which reads: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” In front of an inn, a hopelessly inebriated young woman is being helped into a wheelbarrow. Although the woman’s low-cut dress and red stockings mark
her as a prostitute, her rich and exquisitely delineated clothing indicate a more privileged status. Jan Steen subtly conveys the message that not only are those of superior position as susceptible as the lowly to the sins of drink, but that their disgrace is perhaps more pitiable because of the distance they have fallen.

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