(Could this be a family portrait of the Hals family?)
Oil on panel: 23 x 28 cm;
remnants of the signature, painted circa 1624
annotated on the back: “Franz Hals pinxit – Amstaelodami Anno 1624;”
on old English label: inv. no.60535
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Very little is know about Dirck Hals and except for a visit to Leiden in the early 1640s, most of his career seems to have been spent in Haarlem where he worked in the shadow of his elder brother Frans Hals. “Merry Companies”, such as this one, are his most popular compositions. This genre had been introduced by the Rotterdam painter Willem Pietersz. Buytewech, who lived in Haarlem from
1612 – 1617. Hals refined these compositions into scenes of levity, often combined with a hidden meaning about vanity and the folly of sensual enjoyment.
The many figures that recur in his paintings, often in the same poses, are a testament to his practice of reusing preparatory drawings, a well as to the conventions of the merry company theme in which stereotypical figures were seen in different roles and poses.
For instance, the standing figures in the present work are mirrored by a similar couple in a signed and dated “Merry Company”of 1624 (with Douwes, Amsterdam 1986). Their faces are identical too to those in “Merry Company Outdoors”, a painting signed and dated 1621, now in the Budapest Museum of Fine Art (Inv. no. 51.2878).
In this painting, the artist creates a fascinating panorama of flirtations and amorous allusions by showing an intricate interplay of eye contact among the persons portrayed. There is the glance between the pair seated at the table, behind which the young woman is sitting comfortably on her partner’s lap, but also note the liens between the other three figures at the table. The viewer is drawn into the event by enticing glances from two members of the group.
We believe this painting might actually represent the Hals family themselves on a festive occasion. Below we have illustrated the suspected people in the painting. Frans Hals and his second wife Lysbeth Reyniers on the left, with Joost and perhaps his wife (not much is known about his life) in the middle background and Dirck Hals himself at the right foreground.
with the RKD no. 47092 as Dirck Hals: https://rkd.nl/images/47092