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The Highlight of Sotheby's Amsterdam Old Master Paintings Sale: A School Class by Jan Steen
Jan Steen (1626-1679), A school class with a sleeping schoolmaster, 1672. Oil on panel. Estimate €300,000 – 400,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

AMSTERDAM.- The highlight of the Old Master Paintings sale at Sotheby’s Amsterdam on Tuesday, 10th May, 2011 is A school class with a sleeping schoolmaster by Dutch Golden Age Artist Jan Steen (1626-1979). This painting may be regarded as one of Jan Steen’s finest treatments of a schoolroom interior. Furthermore, it is thus far his only known representation of a schoolroom that is both signed and dated and which has remained in private hands.

The work has a remarkable provenance, going back as far as 1764, including the distinguished Baring Collection in the 19th Century. This exciting picture, dated 1672, perfectly demonstrates Steen’s mastery at depicting the humorous side of everyday life, which remains as true to life and as successful in capturing our attention today as it was to his viewers in the 17th Century. A school class with a sleeping schoolmaster is offered for sale with an estimate of €300,000 - 400,000.

Jan Steen painted this Schoolroom in 1672, in his native town of Leiden where he had returned to from Haarlem in 1670 after the death of his father. This is one of only a few pictures known by Steen that are both signed and dated. In his later works, such as this, the focus seems to be more on pure entertainment, as is clearly the case here: Steen has literally given the children every inch of this painting to go all out and to take as much advantage of the sleeping schoolmaster as possible.

Martine Lambrechtsen, Head of the Old Master Paintings Department at Sotheby’s Amsterdam, commented:‘Steen was a born storyteller and with a picture like this, he was able to display his talent to best effect. To viewers of the 17th Century, this was the ultimate vermaak, or amusement, watching a scene like this where everything is in complete disarray.’

A school class with a sleeping schoolmaster entered the distinguished collection of Thomas Baring in 1846. Besides this outstanding work by Jan Steen other important and high quality pictures from the Dutch Golden Age were included in this remarkable collection. Today most paintings that were once part of the Baring Collection are included in collections of renowned (inter)national museums.

The sale also features a strong selection of early Dutch, Flemish and German paintings. One of the highlights in this section is a portrait of Elector Frederick III ‘the Wise’ of Saxony (1463-1525) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (est. €60,000 - 90,000). This is one of a number of portraits by Cranach painted of his most important early patron and was possibly commissioned by John Frederick the Magnanimous (1503-1554) in 1532.

Other highlights include a grand and joyful Village Kermesse with numerous peasants feasting by Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot. This painting, one of Droochsloot’s largest and most successful works, is estimated at €80,000 – 120,000. The sale also features an attractive View of the Weesperplein with the Weesperpoort in Amsterdam (est. €25,000 – 35,000), by Isaak Ouwater (1750 – 1793) and an amusing Interior of a Guardroom by Jacob Duck (circa 1600 – 1667) with an estimated value of €40,000 – 60,000.

The sale will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s Amsterdam beginning 6 May from 10am until 5pm. During the exhibition highlights from the important Old Master & British Paintings sale in London (6 and 7 July 2011) will also be shown.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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