It is not known how Jan II was related to the famous Haarlem painter Jan Miense Molenaer. There is actually not much information known about Jan II, who worked as a painter in Haarlem during the last quarter of the 17th century.
Until now one more, but unsigned, comic scene with monks and prostitutes was known by Jan II. This is actually an extremely rare subject in 17th century Dutch genre scene painting.
About Jan Molenaer II
Haarlem circa 1654/58 – circa 1700 Haarlem
Genre scene painter.
Molenaer’s case is one of the most problematic of 17th century genre scene painting.
He became a Master of the Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem in 1684. Both his identity and his work have frequently been confused with Jan Miense Molenaer (Haarlem 1609/10 – 1668 Haarlem) and with a certain Jan Jacobsz. Molenaer (date of birth unknown, he became a member of the Painter’s Guild of Haarlem in 1643 and he died in 1685) but his relation to both artists is unknown.
His choice of subjects, tavern scenes, reminds of Jan Miense Molenaer, but his style does not. Still it is rather problematic that Jan Miense Molenaer sometimes signed his paintings as “Jan Molenaer”.
Our painter’s style seems more related to Egbert van Heemskerck II (Haarlem 1634/35 – 1704 London).
Jan Miense Molenaer specialised in genre scenes, but his oeuvre also extends into portraiture, history painting and scenes of contemporary theatre. He was a pupil of Frans Hals, possibly also of his younger brother Dirk Hals. He was active in Haarlem and in nearby Heemstede (1629-1636, 1648-1655, 1657-1668) and in Amsterdam (1637-1648, 1655-1656).
Egbert van Heemskerck II was the son and pupil of Egbert I (Haarlem 1610 -1680 London). Egbert II is documented in Haarlem until 1667, circa 1670 he moved to England with his father.
About our painting
Contrary to what one might expect such an amusing paintings criticizing the behaviour of Catholics, here monks, were very rare in the young Protestant Dutch nation.
Our painter actually produced another related painting with monks and women in a tavern. It was sold by Christie’s in 2001. It was unsigned.
The bed at left in our painting sets the scene in a brothel.
While the Catholic Church had regarded prostitution as a necessary evil, made sadly unavoidable by the sinful state of humanity, in the new Protestant societies it was prohibited. Whenever a city was taken over by the Calvinists during the course of the Dutch Revolt in the late 16th and first half of the 17th century, one of the first acts of the new city government was to close down the municipal brothels and to suppress prostitution.
But this prohibition was impossible to maintain in a society that possessed too many characteristics favouring widespread prostitution, especially in its main town Amsterdam, where each year thousands of sailors ended their journeys and were paid off, following long journeys without women.
Prostitution was condemned from the pulpit and regulated through fines, jail terms, flogging or banishment. But still it flourished, not in large bordellos (as you would find them in Catholic states), but in hundreds of small houses.
Seventeenth century prostitution in Holland was mainly in the hands of women: a bawd (“hoerewaardin”) usually ran a very small whorehouse with one, two, maximum three harlots. If there were more clients a maid would fetch more whores in the neighbourhood. In paintings these bawds are generally represented as ugly, often hideously grinning, old procuresses (“koppelaarster”). The books of confessions from the prisoners learn us that most bawds were not that much older than their whores. Representing them as old women, as the embodiment of vices and evil, seems to go back to the persecution of witches.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a hilarious representation of a very rare subject.