Girl Eating Oysters

A painting showing a young woman who leans over a table filled with food and sprinkles salt on an oyster.

Jan Steen (1626–1679)
Girl Eating Oysters, c. 1658–60
Oil on panel
8 1/8 x 5 ¾ in. (20.5 x 14.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gift of Sir Henri Deterding, 1936
Inv. no 818

Like oysters, salt was considered an aphrodisiac. The glass of wine and the presence of the bed may indicate the girl’s intentions, as do her direct gaze and sly smile: she is offering herself. Steen fluently adapts his brushwork to suit the scale of his paintings, varying between the painstaking strokes of a miniaturist for this diminutive panel and a more painterly technique for the grand canvas “As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young," also on view in the exhibition.

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