Room 27

Merry company scenes: Haarlem and beyond

At the beginning of the 17th century, Haarlem became an important centre for the development of genre painting. In the 1620s, Dirck Hals depicted fashionable figures in both indoor and outdoor settings, with a painterly technique that showed the influence of his more famous brother, the portraitist Frans Hals. Although Dirck was inspired by earlier Haarlem painters like Willem Buytewech with whom he may have trained, his contribution to the development of elegant merry company scenes was as important as his brother’s for portrait painting.

Many artists felt the impact of the Hals family. Judith Leyster’s half-length genre figures, for example, indicate that she came really close to Frans Hals’ broad brush strokes and virtuoso technique. On the other hand, her husband Jan Miense Molenaer used a more finished manner and gave a larger scale to his merry companies than Dirck Hals. The other paintings in this room, made by artists working in Haarlem and Amsterdam (such as Pieter Codde, Willem Duyster and Pieter Quast), show that the Hals’ influence spread beyond Haarlem, with each artist producing his own personal interpretation of the genre.