KNÜPFER, Nicolaus
(b. ca. 1603, Leipzig, d. 1655, Utrecht)

Brothel Scene

1630s
Oil on panel, 60 x 74 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Nicolaus Knüpfer was a Leipzig artist who settled in Utrecht. He was one of the first teachers of Jan Steen.

Despite the thriving whorehouse business, representation of outright bordellos in seventeenth-century Dutch painting seems to have been almost off limits. In the 1630s Knüpfer painted one such room full of swaggering men and frolicking women, in a picture that seems to anticipate descriptions from" 't Amsterdams Hoerdom," a humorous guide to Amsterdam's whorehouses published in 1684. The outlandish dress and behaviour of the men makes them as laughable as brawling peasants in other genre paintings. Most pictorial and written accounts of taverns were more ambiguous, however.