Le Mari battant sa femme [The Irate Husband]
25.6 cm x 33.4 cm (10 1/16 in. x 13 1/8 in.)
(Tours, France, 1602 - 1676, Paris)
Medium and Support:
Etching and engraving
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
By the seventeenth century, marriage for men was regarded as honorable and the means for acquiring higher status and authority among neighbors. Married men were assigned better seats in church than bachelors, and men with children were addressed as "yeoman." In order to maintain that status, however, husbands had to keep strict order in their households, and wife beating was common.
Men who were "henpecked" as in The Irate Wife, lost esteem in the eyes of their colleagues. By referring in the inscription to the man in this scene as "a husband in name only," the artist leaves open the question of the validity of marriages arranged solely for the social benefits they provided.