Very little is know about Dirck Hals and excepting 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 were 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.
Although the cavalier with the blue sash is focusing his whole attention on the young lady before him, her heart seems to be given to the dandy on the right, who with a sweeping gesture has seated himself comfortably on a stool. The viewer is drawn into the event by enticing glances from two members of the group.
With Newhouse Galleries, New York;
Sold to Thomas Mellon Evans, 1966;
His sale “The Thomas Mellon Evans Collection” at Christie’s New York,
May 1998, lot no. 23, with ill.
Collection Otto Naumann, New York, 1999;
Private collection Europe;
with Tajan, Paris, 2005;
with Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam, 2006;
Private collection, The Netherlands.
with the RKD (Netherlands Institute of Art History) as Dirck Hals under link https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/47092