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Marriage at Cana

Marriage at Cana, 1676

Jan Steen
Dutch, c.1626-1679
Oil on canvas
31-3/8 x 43 in. (79.7 x 109.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The story of Christ’s first public miracle, performed at a wedding feast in the village of Cana, appears in the second chapter of John. Finding that the wine has been exhausted, Jesus transforms six stone jars filled with water into the finest wine. Jan Steen, who painted the subject six times, never depicted the miracle directly. Instead, he incorporated the event into the larger tableau of the wedding party. Jesus’ presence is hardly noticeable as he performs the miracle quietly in the middle ground.

Steen’s treatment of the religious subject demonstrates how fluidly he mingled historical and contemporary events. Here the act of drinking in celebration of love seems to be a subject equal to that of the miracle. People hold up glasses for a toast, partake of the wine and offer drinks to others, most unaware of the
dramatic transformation that has taken place.

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