#FineArtFriday: Merry Company by Dirck Hals 1635

Vrolijke gezelschap

Merry company *oil on panel *30 x 51 cm *signed : D Hals 1635

Artist: Dirck Hals (1591–1656)

Title: Merry Company

Date: 1635

Medium: oil on panel

Dimensions: height: 30 cm (11.8 in); width: 51.1 cm (20.1 in)

Collection: Mauritshuis

What I love about this painting:

Perhaps we are celebrating the engagement of the young couple on the far right—a fashionably, yet modestly, dressed young woman and a gallant young man holding hands and gazing at each other.

The hostess, in the center, looks up and greets her guests who have entered to the left of us. She gestures to the food on the table, inviting them to sit. Are they the future in-laws?

The host looks directly at us, the viewer. He greets us as his guests and he too gestures to the table—join us! Sit, eat, and we’ll have an evening to remember. A single crystal wine glass shows us that wine is being served but companionship and food are what the party is really about. We are here to meet and get to know each other.

An engagement is a reason to gather and celebrate—so let us join this merry company and spend an evening with friends, partying like it’s 1635.

About the setting of this painting:

Dirck Hals has given us the image of friends partying in someone’s home. This is clearly not set in a tavern, as the walls are clean, freshly plastered and painted, and the fireplace at the far left has an ornate mantel. It is for heating the room only, not for cooking. The mantel’s aesthetics are part of the room’s decor.

The scene is set in a dining room. We see six pewter tankards proudly displayed on the wall above a sideboard, along with large pewter platters, signs that this is an intimate family room. We know they are pewter because of the dark bluish color of the metal. These are serving vessels every home needed in the 17th century, but only the wealthier middle-class could afford pewter.

And if you could afford to have a separate room just for dining, you would have your drinking vessels and platters displayed above a sideboard in the manner we see here.

In the background to the right, a fine, large landscape painting also indicates a prosperous home.

Everyone is dressed in their best clothes. The modest yet stylish dress of the guests also point to a domestic scene rather than a tavern. Their garments are made from expensive fabrics, silks and satins, and they wear the immense ruffs of crisp white lace that only the upper classes could afford. These are prosperous people, traders in cloth perhaps—but no matter what they trade, they are gathered to celebrate something, and we have been invited to join them.

Taverns and the poorer classes had either wooden tankards and bowls or fired clay mugs and platters. If they had an object made of pewter, it would be put away for safekeeping. The innkeepers and owners of public houses wouldn’t keep tankards where they could be knocked down or stolen.

About the Artist, Via Wikipedia:

Dirck Hals (19 March 1591 – 17 May 1656), born at Haarlem, was a Dutch Golden Age painter of merry company scenes, festivals and ballroom scenes. He played a role in the development of these types of genre painting. He was somewhat influenced by his elder brother Frans Hals but painted few portraits.

The Haarlem writer Samuel Ampzing mentions both brothers in his Praise of Haarlem with a poem stating that both brothers were exceptional; Frans painting his portraits “awake”, and Dirck painting his figures “purely”. [1]

About pewter, via Wikipedia:

Lidless mugs and lidded tankards may be the most familiar pewter artifacts from the late 17th and 18th centuries, although the metal was also used for many other items including porringers (shallow bowls), plates, dishes, basins, spoons, measures, flagons, communion cups, teapots, sugar bowls, beer steins (tankards), and cream jugs. In the early 19th century, changes in fashion caused a decline in the use of pewter flatware. At the same time, production increased of both cast and spun pewter tea sets, whale-oil lamps, candlesticks, and so on. Later in the century, pewter alloys were often used as a base metal for silver-plated objects. [2]

Credits and Attributions:

IMAGE: Merry Company by Dirck Hals, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (accessed December 29, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Dirck Hals,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Dirck Hals  (accessed December 29, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Pewter,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pewter&oldid=1129247091 (accessed December 29, 2022).


Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing

4 responses to “#FineArtFriday: Merry Company by Dirck Hals 1635

  1. I don’t know why they are smiling. Those outfits cannot be comfortable. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Judy

    enjoyed this read, a lot to be said for ‘setting the scene.’

    Liked by 1 person