The sign hanging in front of the Tavern of the Crescent Moon shows it was a wayside inn catering to the traveling public and some locals. Molenaer’s inn seems to have been a friendly place where the food was most important. A piper is playing, and people are singing. Others are hanging out the windows and watching from a balcony, enjoying the music.
The patrons are a mixed group but look like happy middle-class people, who seem fairly prosperous. What I love about this painting is the fact that the patrons are sitting outdoors. The inside of most taverns and wayside inns were dark, smoky places. Patrons must have moved outdoors as soon as the weather allowed. The day this painting was composed, weather was fine, although one well-dressed man (perhaps a merchant?) has his foot resting on a foot-warmer, which was a luxury item in that time period.
Whole families are there, out for an evening of music and enjoyment. They are breaking and sharing fresh-baked bread. Other than the man whose best friend is the dog, no one has overindulged in drink—over all, the happy group looks as if they came to the tavern solely for the company and the music.
About the Artist: From the National Gallery Website:
Jan Miense Molenaer was born in Haarlem and lived there or in nearby Heemstede. In 1634 he was listed as member of the Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem. In 1636 he married the painter Judith Leyster. Both Molenaer and Leyster may have been pupils of Frans Hals and were certainly influenced by both his style and subject matter. Dirck Hals’ influence was also very important for him, for it inspired Molenaer to paint merry company scenes.
Jan Miense Molenaer was a more prolific artist than his wife, Judith Leyster, who worked on similar subjects. Motherhood and running a household most likely cut into Judith’s time for artistic endeavors. Molenaer and Leyster had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood.
Sources and Attributions:
Quote from biography of Jan Miense Molenaer, The National Gallery Website, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/jan-miense-molenaer The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN (accessed November 9, 2018)
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Miense Molenaer 003.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Miense_Molenaer_003.jpg&oldid=302686494 (accessed November 9, 2018).
Wikipedia contributors, “Judith Leyster,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Judith_Leyster&oldid=820769951 (accessed November 9, 2018).