Sex and the masters

Jan Steen - Beware of Luxury
Jan Steen – Beware of Luxury (© WikiCommons)

In this programme, David Swatling turns his attention to sex and the masters. While tame to modern eyes, many paintings from the 17th century were full of sexual symbolism. Some paintings of interiors can be identified as taverns or brothels with drunken, passed-out women if you what what clues to look for. In others, people are shown indulging in the sensuous pleasures of feasting, drinking and seductive bawdiness. Vermeer and Rembrandt were subtle in portraying amourous behaviour. Jan Steen’s Recorder Lesson leaves less to the imagination when you know that the recorder was a phallic symbol in those days. 

Producer: David Swatling

Broadcast: August, 2000