(b. 1593, Antwerpen, d. 1678, Antwerpen)

The Bean King

Oil on canvas, 243 x 373 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel

Jordaens painted several versions of the subject, representing a popular custom, the feast of the Bean King.

The composition of this version did not remain fixed from the beginning. Over some 15 or 20 years, the pictorial surface was extended with several strips of canvas, recognisable by the seams. In this way Jordaens made room for the two couples on the left, extrapolating from the boisterous merrymaking of the central group to illustrate two specific consequences of drinking alcohol. While the helpless old man embodies the vice of lethargy, the amorous frenzy of the younger exemplifies unchastity. But it is the dog in the foreground that really encapsulates the bad end the party is to come to. In less than a moment, the cutlery and glassware from the falling basket will hit the floor with a crash and a tinkle, startling the assembled guests.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor), drinking song