Jan Steen

The Lean Kitchen

c. 1652-1654
Steen's two paintings, The Lean Kitchen and The Fat Kitchen (now in a private collection) are based loosely on engravings after designs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569). Here an impoverished family consumes a modest meal of bread, mussels and fish. A portly man stands at the door of the kitchen, turning his nose at the offering of a solitary turnip. The easel in the background may be a reference to the destitute life led by an artist - not far from the truth for Steen.

Label: “Depot No. 002400”

by 1882
Bellefroid collection, Brussels, Belgium (?) [1]

De Keyser collection, Breda, The Netherlands (?) [2]

Michotte collection, Brussels, Belgium (?) [3]

– 1905/03/02
Paul Mersch, Paris, France [4]

"Imperial Hohenzollern collection", Germany [5]

– 1931/01/22
Baron Andre´ Sigmond von Lemheny (b.1885), Switzerland [6]

– 1959/06/16
Ernst Messerli (d. 1958), Rümligen, Switzerland [7]

1959/10 – 1960/06/15
Meissner collection [8]

1960/06/15 –
National Galleries of Canada, purchased from Meissner through Schaeffer Galleries, New York [9]

The main source for this provenance is C. Hofstede de Groot's catalogue raisonné, cat. no. 122 [Hofstede de Groot, C. "A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century.", translated and edited by Edward G. Hawke, London: Mac Millan & Co., 1908]. Exceptions and other supporting documents are noted.

[1] According to Hofstede de Groot the painting was exhibited in Brussels in 1882 while in possession of Bellefroid and then changed hands to De Keyser and Michotte. An exhibition review in the periodical “Chronique des Arts et de la Curiosité“ dated Mai 20, 1882, however, mentions Michotte as owner of the work in 1882. [“Correspondance de Belgique.” p. 156].

[2] See note [1].

[3]See note [1].

[4] On March 1–2, 1905 Paul Mersch of Paris sold the work at Keller and Reiner, Berlin, [lot no. 104]. At this point The Lean Kitchen was still with its pendant The Fat Kitchen [Hofsteede de Groot, cat. no.121].

[5] On January 22, 1931, the work was auctioned at the Anderson Galleries, New York [“Important Old Masters of the Italian, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Schools.” American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, New York, Jan. 22, 1931, lot no. 69], consigned by Baron Andre´ Sigmond von Lemheny, a Hungarian collector, residing in Switzerland, who according to the foreword of the catalogue had acquired numerous items from European princely collections. For the Lean Kitchen the catalogue entry notes that it was formerly owned by the "Imperial Hohenzollern collection". [Anderson Galleries, New York, Jan. 22, 1931, lot no. 69]

[6] See note [5].

[7] According to the Schaeffer Gallery records the work belonged to the estate of Ernst Messerli [Schaeffer Gallery records, Box 43, no. 20, acc. no. 910148, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles]. The work was included in the Messerli estate sale at Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 1959, 16–22 [“Hervorragende Gemälde Alter und Neuer Meister. Erbschaft Ernst Messerli, Rümligen”, lot no. 2440].

[8] According to the Schaeffer Gallery stock records the work was with the Schaeffer Gallery on Commission from Meissner since October 1959 and sold to the National Gallery of Canada on June 15, 1960 [Schaeffer gallery records, ID no. 9101 48-7, stock card no. 1930, Getty Research Intsitute, Los Angeles]. This could possibly be the Zürich art dealer Kurt Meissner.

[9] See note [8]. Accession log [NGC curatorial file].

On verso in pencil/ ink (?), twice: 8046

According to the Schaeffer gallery records, an inscription used to be found on the verso: “His Excellency the Danish Minister”

The Lean Kitchen
c. 1652-1654
oil on oak
69.7 x 91.9 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1960
Accession number