#FineArtFriday: Shrovetide Revelers by Frans Hals ca. 1616

Frans_Hals,_Merrymakers_at_Shrovetide,_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_ArtArtist: Frans Hals  (1582/1583–1666)

Title: Shrovetide Revelers

Genre: genre painting

Date: circa 1616–17

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 51 ¾ × 39 ¼ in. (131.4 × 99.7 cm)

Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

What I think about this painting:

This was a lurid scene at the time it was painted and is still lurid today. The sole female portrayed is a girl dressed in the finest of garments, surrounded by men. She is well-fed, has abundant blonde hair, and represents the concept of “plenty.” The party will go on for as long as she lasts–when she is gone, the party is over.

The color of her hair is gold, an allegory for an abundance of coins. The men posed around her represent the human tendency toward gluttony, drunkenness, and greed.

Frans Hals depicted the embroideries on the fabric of her dress and the intricate lace at her neck and cuffs with exquisite care and attention to detail. The sheen of her satin sleeves gleams in the candlelight, showing off the strings of beads at her neck and wrist. Perhaps the beads are carnelians. Her brightly flushed cheeks give evidence to her inebriation.

All the characters, including the serving man, are shown as having overindulged. The foods on the table are those any person could acquire, but they are shown being wasted, used as decorations for fools.

Food was an incredibly popular subject for paintings during the renaissance–still lifes were exceedingly good sellers for most artists. Food of all varieties was carefully staged and shown with superb realism and minute detail. Those artists we now call the Dutch and Flemish masters used food as an allegory, and even in genre paintings, they loved to paint lavish food displays.

As in the scene above, the foods depicted in scenes of drunkenness and revelry conveyed symbolic meanings, often implying immorality and debauchery.

Mostly, the imagery was intended to be a reminder that great wealth can vanish overnight. Also, they show us that gluttony is both unappealing to look at and unhealthy for the glutton.

But when I see an image such as this painting, I have to think these artists, whose own morals were often quite elastic, were exercising their broad senses of humor.

About this painting, via The Met Museum:

Shrovetide, now better known as Mardi Gras, is the traditional period of indulgence before the fasting and self-discipline of Lent. In the seventeenth-century Netherlands, it was also the occasion for theatrical performances by the painters’ guilds.

Here, Hals depicts two stock figures from these plays, Hans Wurst, with a sausage dangling from his cap, and Pekelharing, who sports a garland of salted fish and eggs.

They flank a richly dressed girl (probably a boy in drag, as women were not permitted to perform on these occasions).

Still life elements litter the foreground, evoking both the traditional foods of the festival and an abundance of erotic innuendo. [1]

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Shrovetide Revellers, also known as Merrymakers at Shrovetide, is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, painted in around 1616–17. It is one of the earliest surviving works by Hals, and has been held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City since 1913. The painting shows people festivities at Shrovetide (DutchCarnaval), an annual carnival of food and jollity which takes place before the Christian fasting season of Lent.

The painting shows the face of an elegantly dressed smiling woman raising her right finger to make a point, while a man grabs her shoulder to whisper in her ear: he has a string of herring, eggs and mussels around his neck, with a pig’s trotter and a fox tail, symbols of gluttony and foolishness respectively. Another amused gentleman, with a wurst hanging from his cap, leans on the first man’s shoulder and listens to their banter. Some claim these are the Baroque theatre characters Peeckelhaeringh and Hans Wurst. Behind them other people are talking and laughing. The flagon Bears the initials “fh”. [2]

Credits and Attributions:

[1] Shrovetide Revellers or Merrymakers at Shrovetide by Frans Hals, Met Museum Contibutors © 2000–2022 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frans Hals | Merrymakers at Shrovetide | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org) (Accessed April 14, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Shrovetide Revellers,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shrovetide_Revellers&oldid=1070869013 (accessed April 14, 2022).


Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing

4 responses to “#FineArtFriday: Shrovetide Revelers by Frans Hals ca. 1616

  1. Johanna Flynn

    Thanks, Connie! And here I am drooling for that chocolate bunny on Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The looks on the men faces bugged me until I read the article. I didn’t even see the string of food around the man’s neck at first glance or the “fh” on the flagon. Definitely humorous satire! 😉

    Liked by 1 person