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Hendrick Pot, A Merry Company at Table

Key facts
Full title A Merry Company at Table
Artist Hendrick Pot
Artist dates about 1585 or earlier? - 1657
Date made 1630
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 32.3 × 49.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1889
Inventory number NG1278
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Merry Company at Table
Hendrick Pot

Scenes set in brothels (called bordeeltjes in Dutch) were a popular genre in seventeenth-century painting. In this picture, two young women sit on the laps of their clients; the much older woman in the centre runs the business. Although the men are the paying customers, it is the women who are clearly in charge here. The younger ones both look directly at us with a knowing glance, while the brothel-keeper watches on wryly. The men are too drunk or distracted to notice who is running the show, or that we are watching them.

We are clearly intended to be amused by what is going on, but that doesn’t mean that Hendrick Pot expected his customers to approve of such behaviour. As well as entertainments, pictures of this sort were understood to be cautioning against high living, manipulative women – as Pot would have seen it – and the consequences of immorality.

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