Girl Eating Oysters by Jan Steen

I find today’s painting to be a very interesting one. I had never seen this painting up until today while I was searching the internet for some works of art.

The painting is called Girl Eating Oysters and it’s by Dutch painter Jan Steen. It was painted around 1626 in Leyden, Netherlands.


I love how Steen represented this scene. Behind an ordinary portrait, hides an interesting meaning. The girl is looking at the viewer while she is salting some oysters. The girl’s hairstyle, her facial structure and her posture are those of a sweet and young innocent girl. It seems like she is helping out in the family business, since we can see two other characters selling oysters in the back of the painting.

I read this analysis and read more about Jan Steen’s painting techniques: it is clear that there is more to this painting that one would think. Both readings give a really good explanation on what goes on in the painting and the meaning behind it.

If we look deeper into the painting’s details we can see objects that may tell us more about the painting’s meaning. Oysters were considered to be an aphrodisiac food. In the 17th century oysters’ salty juice was considered to be a dangerous “love potion.” After reading this, when we look at the girl’s posture and facial expression, we can see that she is not so innocent after all. Her eyes look into ours with a provocative look; it seems like she is inviting us to have the oysters that she has carefully prepared. In addition to this, if we look in the back right of the painting, we see a closed curtain bed. It seems like there is a sort of ritual going on in this room. When analyzing this painting it is also helpful to know that Steen was known to hide a specific message behind his paintings. He was known to be a humorist and witty person between the Dutch painters of the 17th century.

I find this painting to be really fascinating and mysterious. It amazes me to see how much meaning there is behind such a simple scene.

I found this article that talks about the history of oysters. The second half of the article talks about the hazards of eating oysters, but the first part has very interesting facts about this “aphrodisiac.” For example, did you know that Casanova ate 50 oysters for breakfast? I love to find out these curious facts about food.


And now, here is an article on how to prepare oysters: how to clean and open these spellbound shells.

When you have your oysters cleaned and ready,just sprinkle some salt, like the girl in the painting, and squeeze some lemon juice on top. Now you can slide them into your mouth and enjoy with a glass of Champagne.



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