OIL PAINTING: The King Drinks, 1638
Certain art historians have seen in this depiction of extreme merriment - The King Drinks , a turning away from such behaviour by a soberly inclined artist who had become a Protestant in later life. This interpretation may well be as unsatisfactory as the earlier reading of it as an ode to pleasure within the warm family circle, a concept so popular that it even founds its way onto biscuit tin lids. The surfeit to which Jordaens' figures are giving themselves over, but which is not really doing them much good, receives a somewhat ambivalent commentary in the cartouche in the top centre: "In een vry gelachllst goet gast syn" (where there is a free meal it is good to be a guest). A contradiction appears to exist between the message and the scene confronting us. Here the realisation that one should count oneself lucky not to have to pay the bill leads too far from pleasant excesses. Jordaens' presentation is therefore not free from a certain amount of irony.