Jan Steen (1626 – 1679)

The Feast of Saint Nicholas catholic version)
The Feast of Sant-Nicolas (protestant version)

The Feast of Saint Nicholas (Dutch: Het Sint-Nicolaasfeest c. 16651668 now also known as Sinterklaas), is a painting by Dutch master Jan Steen, which can now be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It measures 82 x 70.5 cm. The picture, painted in the chaotic Jan Steen “style,” depicts a family at home on December 5, the night celebrated in the Netherlands as the Feast of Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas.

You can read about the painting in detail here. The painting is like a story. To give you some examples about the catholic version:

  • The sobbing boy has been naughty so no gifts for him in his shoe
  • Grandma might have something for him maybe?
  • The girl’s doll represents John the Baptist and he is the Saint Patron of epilepsy and therefore it suggests the girl suffers from it as well (Wikipedia says so, i could not verify this and doubt it since he was the patron of many: builders, tailors, printers, baptism, conversion to faith, people dealing with storms and their effects (like hail), and people who need healing from spasms or seizures.)
  • They are pointing up the chimney, where the holy man must have entered and left the house.
  • The Child near the chimney is holding a symbol of the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, a gingerbread man in the shape of St. Nicholas. The delicacy, still enjoyed around the fifth of December, was seen as an example of Catholic worship of saints and was not approved of by Protestant authorities. In the seventeenth century, the baking of such figures of saints (especially St. Nicholas) was banned. In 1655 in the city of Ultrecht an ordinance was passed which forbade “the baking of likenesses in bread or cake”.[1]




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