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Jan Olis, A Musical Party

Key facts
Full title A Musical Party
Artist Jan Olis
Artist dates about 1610 - 1676
Date made 1633
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.7 × 52.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Alfred A. de Pass, 1920
Inventory number NG3548
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Musical Party
Jan Olis

There is no doubting who is the star of this group of musicians. The fair-haired woman in a bright pink dress with gold-trimmed sleeves and elaborate lace collars is clearly the centre of our attention. She is bathed in sunlight which also catches the curves and polished surface of her viola da gamba. The other musicians around the table wear far more muted colours and are mostly cast in shadow.

What we see now is probably only an edited version of the original composition. The figure of a boy removing a flask from a wine cooler was painted out in 1969–70; at the time it was considered to be a later addition, but it is now believed to have been painted by Olis himself. Reinstating the boy would reintroduce a very subtle hint that such innocent gatherings are always vulnerable to the corrupting influence of alcohol.

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