HALS, Dirck
(b. 1591, Haarlem, d. 1656, Haarlem)

Merry Company

Oil on panel, 45 x 67,5 cm
Private collection

Dirck Hals was apprenticed to his older brother Frans. Yet while Frans Hals specialized in portraiture, Dirck Hals concentrated primarily on genre paintings and conversation pieces in the manner of Esasias van de Velde and Willem Pietersz. Buytewech. From the 1620s onwards, he frequently had the figures in his paintings added by his own specialist, Dirck van Deelen. He preferred a courtly setting and noble society, whereas his Merry Company follows in the tradition of the brothel painting and the tale of the prodigal son.

The bed on the left in the background, and the body language of the couples leave us in little doubt as to the situation. At the same time, however, this is also a "five senses" scene: not only is the sense of touch satisfied, but there is also music and singing, smoking and drinking, while the eyes feast on an empty jug or a bodice.

The interior also gives us an idea of how paintings were displayed in Holland at the time. They have been hung on a shabby wall without any evident system: a landscape, a marine painting, a portrait. It is clear that paintings had by now become objects to be taken for granted. Some might be cheaper or more expensive, better or worse painted than others, but they were no longer laden with iconographic significance.