During the early seventeenth century images of peasants in genre prints
were often used both to amuse and to impart a moral message. Ostade’s
print The Dance in the Inn, however, displays none of the squalid
drunkenness and chaos typical of depictions of lower-class revels.
While the assembled company is certainly drinking, smoking, dancing,
and canoodling, all of which were viewed as disreputable activities,
Ostade also includes vignettes of moral behavior: the woman with her
child in the left foreground, and woman tending the fire in the background
(fire was often used as symbol of lustful passion). The tree visible
behind the fiddler and the branch in the center of the room indicate
that this may be a May Day celebration, where festivities heralded
the arrival of spring.