Fêtes and Folly: Wine is a Mocker

7:00 AM

Jan Steen, Wine is a Mocker, 1663
By KATHERINE GRABOWSKY

Wine is a Mocker, painted by Jan Steen in 1663, depicts a woman passed out on the floor from a night of a little too much wine, as some townspeople attempt to help her. This woman gives us a warning about what could happen when one does not adequately match up the water to wine ratio. She shows the aftermath of a fête that went a little too hard, and the folly that resulted. I imagine she started out the night in her elaborate gown and her vibrant red stockings hoping for a fun yet casual night with only a couple drinks. She probably finished two glasses of wine and wanted to be done until her friends kept giving her more, and in her drunken state, the more she drank the less judgment she had. Before she knew it, she ended up passed out on the dirt road outside a house, as she was loaded into a wheelbarrow. You really can’t get any more humiliating than that. Can’t a girl just have one night out without ending up in a wheelbarrow?!

To make this situation even worse, the townspeople laugh in her face. This is probably their entertainment for the night, and I don’t blame them for laughing. Without the stupidity of reality TV in the 17th century, what’s a guy to do for some vulgar entertainment on those boring Tuesday nights? They don’t want to laugh, but they can’t help it. Even the children giggle from afar, though they (hopefully) don’t understand the situation. The townspeople surrounding the drunkard wear dull colors and clothes that paint them as of a lower class, while the drunkard wears bright colors and a beautiful dress. Not only do they laugh at her foolishness, but also they laugh because, for them, the downfall of the wealthy is so much more satisfying. This mirrors present-day society, where tabloids would rather write about “Miley Cyrus’s Crazy Night Out” rather than “Miley Cyrus Saves a Puppy.” Above the door, reads the inscription “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Even the writing on the door seems to mock her disheveled appearance as the dirt floor represents what she has been reduced to. Jan Steen’s Wine is a Mocker is a visual presentation of what none of us want to be, because the last play anyone wants to wake up during a hangover in is a wheelbarrow surrounded by people laughing at your downfall.

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