Dirck Hals was apprenticed to his older brother
Frans. Yet while Frans Hals specialized in portraiture, Dirck Hals concentrated
primarily on genre paintings and conversation pieces in the manner of Esasias
van de Velde and Willem Pietersz. Buytewech. From the 1620s onwards, he frequently
had the figures in his paintings added by his own specialist, Dirck van Deelen.
He preferred a courtly setting and noble society, whereas his Merry Company follows
in the tradition of the brothel painting and the tale of the prodigal son.
The bed on the left in the background, and the
body language of the couples leave us in little doubt as to the situation. At
the same time, however, this is also a five senses scene: not only
is the sense of touch satisfied, but there is also music and singing, smoking
and drinking, while the eyes feast on an empty jug or a bodice.
The interior also gives us an idea of how paintings
were displayed in Holland at the time. They have been hung on a shabby wall without
any evident system: a landscape, a marine painting, a portrait. It is clear that
paintings had by now become objects to be taken for granted. Some might be cheaper
or more expensive, better or worse painted than others, but they were no longer
laden with iconographic significance. Click for another Merry
Company by Dirk Hals.