More about Children Teaching a Cat to Dance


I’m surprised that PETA hasn’t covered Children Teaching a Cat to Dance in red paint yet.

As the title indicates, the children here are teaching the cat to dance. Obviously, the cat is not into this dance lesson and is screeching in protest. The dog, on the other hand, is looking excited by the fact that it's happening to the cat instead. The girl in front of the table on which the cat is being mistreated is playing a shawn, a woodwind instrument popular in the 17th century. She’s normal-looking but the rest of the children might be the ugliest kids in the world. Each of them looks like a drunk sixty-year old with garlic breath trapped in a child’s body. Either the gene pool in 17th century Holland was really terrible, or Steen didn’t have a knack for depicting children. If you look at the one holding up the cat long enough, he’ll haunt your dreams.

These cruel children are seemingly having the time of their lives, and honestly looking a little wasted. But here to ruin their fun is the old man poking his head out of the window at the top of the painting. He is completely justified in wondering what the hell these kids are up to and whether or not they have anything less annoying to do.

Apparently the incorporation of animals, dancing and pipes would have tipped off Steen's contemporaries that this scene was a sexual innuendo, but I have enough to worry about already with the cat. 

Surprisingly enough, many years later, the artist Joan Miró was absolutely tickled when he saw this piece. It was Miró’s first time in the Netherlands and he went to see his friend, Jean Arp’s opening where he fell in love with Dutch painters and this painting specifically. He was so pleased that he promptly bought a postcard of it.



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Here is what Wikipedia says about Children Teaching a Cat to Dance

Children Teaching a Cat to Dance or The Dancing Lesson is a c.1660–1679 oil on panel painting by Jan Steen, now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The painting depicts a group of children attempting to make a cat dance to the music of a shawm. The cat is screeching and the dog barking but the children are having fun. However, the old man at the window clearly disapproves of their behaviour.

The work is a typical example of Steen's indoor scenes of everyday Dutch life.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Children Teaching a Cat to Dance

Comments (2)

Kyle Montgomery

Children Teaching a Cat to Dance or The Dancing Lesson by Jan Steen is one of my favorite paintings from Dutch masters. If you look closely at the proportions, you will notice the equilibrists proportion game that solves solid geometry problems and answers the best solution; I always wondered how artists in the 17th century could paint such detailed artwork like this one. Thank you for posting about it.


From oil painting circa 1660-1679 to Youtube circa 2019: dancing cats are a thing..