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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: Pre-18th century: Festive Scene
Festive Scene

Festive Scene
about 1650
Jan Miense Molenaer
oil on wood
sight 21 x 31 3/4 in. (53.3 x 80.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Mabel Johnson Langhorne

Festive Scene conjures chimney smoke, bleating pipes, and boozy sweat. Revelers dance and drink in a dark tavern, where a spotted dog snoozes in spite of the racket. This is one of many humorous tavern interiors painted by the Dutch master Jan Miense Molenaer. (Westermann, “Jan Miense Molenaer in the Comic Mode,” in Weller, Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age, 2002). The work was part of the collection of Ralph Cross Johnson, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was described at the time of his death as “One of the greatest patrons of art in the country” (The Washington Post, July 10, 1923). Johnson gave the Smithsonian American Art Museum (then the National Collection of Fine Arts) forty-one old-master paintings, which filled an entire gallery of the Museum. Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings were all the rage among wealthy Americans like Johnson, who amassed European art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, hoping that their collections would one day form the core of America’s national museums.

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