The traditional title dates from the eighteenth century and is based upon a mistaken identification with Pieter Ramp, who appears in a group portrait of about 1627 by Hals. The figures here are a young man and his new acquaintance at the doorway of an inn. The dog suggests not fidelity but spontaneous affection. This canvas, Hals's only known dated genre scene, recalls earlier Netherlandish images of the Prodigal Son but is probably not intended as a representation of the biblical parable. Hals, his brother Dirck (1591–1656), and other Haarlem artists treated the theme of frivolous youth in remarkably various ways.
No other genre painting by Hals is dated, but this one is signed and dated 1623. For most scholars, the canvas is one of Hals's most important contributions to the theme of "everyday life," meaning conventionalized descriptions of modern manners and mores.
Though it has been popularly known since the eighteenth century as Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart, the subject is a brief encounter in a tavern or bordello between a young man and woman who have probably just met. Yonker is an English rendering of Jonker or Jonkheer, which means "Young Gentleman." The young man depicted here was considered to resemble Pieter Ramp, the ensign in the right background of Frans Hals's Banquet of the Officers of the Saint Hadrian Civic Guard Company (Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem) of about 1627. Bode (1909) was evidently the first scholar to connect the painting with the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), and also to emphasize that the main figure in the present work would have been understood by Hals's contemporaries as a modern-day type, similar to but not identical with the biblical figure. Nonetheless, the canvas is quite possibly identical with the painting cited simply as "Een verloren soon van Frans Hals" (A Prodigal Son by Frans Hals) when it was traded between two Amsterdam merchants, Martin van de Broecke and Andries Ackersloot, as recorded in a document dated March 28, 1647 (Thiel-Stroman 1989).
Two prints have often been compared with the MMA picture for the light they shed on the subject matter. An engraving by Gillis van Breen, dated 1597, after a composition by Hals's presumed teacher, Karel van Mander, shows a gentleman embraced by two prostitutes in an inn (Prentenkabinet, Universiteit, Leiden). Behind them is a curtain, suggesting a bed or some private space. Two dogs lick at a morsel in the man's outstretched hand, while an innkeeper and a serving boy bring food out of the kitchen in the background. Hals reduces this image to its essential elements, adding only the commonplace gesture of an upraised glass to clarify the young man's character. The other related print (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) serves as an illustration on the title page of Willem Dircksz Hooft's play Heden-daeghsche Verlooren Soon (Present-day Prodigal Son), which was performed in Amsterdam in 1630 and published the same year. The play demonstrates that the story of a modern young man who simply resembles the Prodigal Son was rich in moral content, and familiar enough to find its way onto the popular stage. The main point, however, was not moral instruction, but rather the humor found in a young man behaving foolishly.
[2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (right, above fireplace): FHALS [initials in monogram] 1623
?Cornelia Lemens, Amsterdam (until 1646); ?Martin van de Broecke, Amsterdam (until 1647; traded with jewelry and other paintings to Ackersloot); ?Andries Ackersloot, Amsterdam (from 1647); Johannes Enschede, Haarlem (until 1786; his sale, Haarlem, May 30, 1786, no. 87, as "Jonker Ramp en zyn Matres," for fl. 21.10); Johan Adriaen Versijden van Varick, Leyden (until 1791; his sale, Leyden, October 29, 1791, no. 103, for fl. 130 to Delfos); C. J. G. Copes van Hasselt and Mme Copes van Hasselt-Delange, Haarlem (until 1880; their sale, Amsterdam, April 20, 1880, no. 1, as "[Leve de Trouw]: Le Chevalier Ramp et sa Maîtresse"); comte Edmond de Pourtalès, Paris (in 1883); [Gimpel & Wildenstein, Paris and New York, until 1905; sold for $155,840 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1905–d. 1913)
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Cent chefs-d'œuvre des collections parisiennes," June 12–?, 1883, no. 90 (as "Leve de Trouw! [Vive la Fidélité!]," lent by M. le comte Edmond de Pourtalès).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 120 (as "Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Frans Hals in the Metropolitan Museum," July 26–October 10, 2011, no catalogue.
C. J. Gonnet. "Jonker Ramp en zijn matres." Nederlandsche kunstbode, beeldende kunst, oudheidkunde, kunstnijverheid 2 (1880), pp. 78–79.
Albert Wolff. Cent chefs-d'œuvre des collections parisiennes. Exh. cat., Galerie Georges Petit. Paris, , p. 112, no. 90, ill. opp. p. 88 (etching).
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883, pp. 49–51, 81, no. 13, as "Junker Ramp und seine Liebste".
Arthur Baignères. "À propos de l'exposition des cent chefs-d'œuvre des collections parisiennes." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 28 (August 1883), ill. opp. p. 122 (etching by H. Guérard), as "Vive la fidélité!".
E[rnst]. W[ilhelm]. Moes. Frans Hals, sa vie et son œuvre. Brussels, 1909, pp. 25, 109, no. 209.
Kurt Erasmus. "Ein Frühwerk von Frans Hals." Der Cicerone 1, no. 2 (1909), p. 51.
W[ilhelm]. [von] Bode. "Ein Frühwerk von Frans Hals." Der Cicerone 1, no. 4 (1909), p. 129, describes the subject as a bordello scene adhering to the Prodigal Son theme, popular in the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 3, London, 1910, p. 9, nos. 1–2, pp. 41–42, no. 139, as "Junker Ramp and His Girl"; calls the smaller version of the composition a repetition by Hals; lists two "Prodigal Son" compositions, probably identical with each other and possibly identical with this work.
H. Mireur. Dictionnaire des ventes d'art . . . Vol. 3, Paris, 1911, p. 406, gives the purchase price at the Copes van Hasselt sale as 37,800 francs.
William Bode. "More Spurious Pictures Abroad Than in America." New York Times (December 31, 1911), p. SM4.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 31–32, under no. 21, pp. 34–35, no. 23, ill. opp. p. 34.
Wilhelm von Bode, ed. Frans Hals, His Life and Work. Berlin, 1914, vol. 1, p. 25, no. 2, pl. 2A.
"The Altman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York." Art and Progress 6 (January 1915), p. 79, ill.
François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), pp. 300–301, calls the smaller version a copy by an artist in the circle of Hals.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Frans Hals, des meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1923, p. 307, ill. p. 23, notes that the title "Jonker Ramp and His Sweetheart" dates from the 1786 Enschede sale, but adds that the model cannot in fact be Pieter Ramp; suggests that the picture may be identified with a "Prodigal Son" in the collection of Cornelia van Lemens in 1646 and with one in the collection of Martin van der Broeck in 1647; states that the smaller version is a repetition possibly by Dirck Hals.
Georg Poensgen. "Beiträge zur Kunst des Willem Buytewech." Jahrbuch der preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 47 (1926), p. 99 n. 3.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 62–64, no. 29, pp. 90–91, under no. 50, ill. opp. p. 62.
C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. "Frans Hals as a Genre Painter." Art News 26 (April 14, 1928), p. 45.
Franz Dülberg. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930, pp. 52, 54–57, pl. 14, states that the woman also appears in "Merrymakers at Shrovetide" (MMA, 14.40.605).
W. R. Valentiner. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Conn., 1936, p. 9, no. 4, ill. [cat. section unpaginated], as "A Cavalier and His Sweetheart"; states that the smaller version is possibly a preliminary study for this work; finds the composition and execution very similar to those of "The Smoker" (MMA, 89.15.34).
N. S. Trivas. The Paintings of Frans Hals. New York, 1941, p. 61, no. App. 2, pl. 153, states that he has examined several versions of the composition, none of which he thinks are by Hals; believes that the MMA picture was painted by the same artist as a "Lute Player" (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam); erroneously states that this work was not included in the Enschede sale of 1786, confusing this painting (no. 87) with a copy (no. 54) also included in the sale.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 611, no. 1611, ill. p. 612 (cropped).
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 229, no. 120, colorpl. 120.
M. L. D'Otrange-Mastai. "'Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart': Two Frans Hals Versions in America." Connoisseur 137 (April 1956), pp. 114–15, ill., believes that the smaller version was painted first, and that the MMA picture is a repetition by Hals.
Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1959, unpaginated, no. 37, ill. (color).
Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive inDutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, 1966, p. 36, pl. 12A, note that it is difficult to decide whether the picture is a representation of the Prodigal Son or a pure genre painting.
Francis Haskell. "The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 262.
Seymour Slive. Frans Hals. Vol. 1, Text. London, 1970, pp. 72–76, 80, 100, 141, notes that the same fireplace appears in Dirck Hals's "Merry Company Gambling in an Interior" (private collection, Germany); finds it reasonable that this picture might be the "Prodigal Son" mentioned in inventories of 1646 and 1647 [see Ref. Valentiner 1923]; mentions that the dog seems to have been borrowed from Goltzius's engraving of "The Sense of Smell"; relates the composition to "The Smoker".
Seymour Slive. Frans Hals. Vol. 2, Plates. London, 1970, pl. 42.
Claus Grimm. Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatalog. Berlin, 1972, pp. 29, 49–50, 52–56, 62–64, 66, 197, 200, no. A5, fig. 25 (detail), calls it a copy after Hals; relates it to an inscription on an engraving of 1597 by Gillis van Breen after Karel van Mander that states "The favor of dogs, the love of whores, the hospitality of innkeepers; not one of them comes for free".
Eduard Plietzsch. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrh. 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1972, pp. 23, 26, calls it "The Prodigal Son".
Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive inDutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. rev. ed. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, pp. 55, 57, fig. 24.
Seymour Slive. Frans Hals. Vol. 3, Catalogue. London, 1974, pp. 13–14, 115, no. 20, calls the smaller version a copy by another hand.
E. C. Montagni inL'opera completa di Frans Hals. Milan, 1974, p. 89, under no. 24, fig. 24a.
Herbert Wiesner. Master Painters of Holland: Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1976, p. 6, pl. 10.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 318, 332, fig. 571 (color).
Albert Blankert. "Classicism in Dutch Painting, 1614–1670." Gods, Saints & Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1980, p. 189 n. 8, agrees that this picture is possibly the "Prodigal Son" mentioned in archival documents of 1646 and 1647.
Otto Naumann. Frans van Mieris (1635–1681) the Elder. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1981, vol. 1, p. 21 n. 7, notes that Hals borrowed the dog from an engraving after Goltzius's "Sense of Smell".
H. P. Baard. Frans Hals. New York, 1981, fig. 58.
Frima Fox Hofrichter. Haarlem: The Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat., Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. [New Brunswick, N.J.], 1983, p. 41, fig. 16.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 185, fig. 262.
Barbara Haeger. "Frans Hals' so-called 'Jonker Ramp and his Sweetheart' Reconsidered." Konsthistorisk Tidskrift 55 (1986), pp. 141–48, fig. 1, argues that it is both "a moral exemplum and a celebration of pleasure"; rejects the identification of the subject as the Prodigal Son.
Jacques Foucart inMusée du Louvre: Nouvelles acquisitions du Département des Peintures (1983–1986). Paris, 1987, p. 80, ill. p. 79.
Walter A. Liedtke. "Toward a History of Dutch Genre Painting II: The South Holland Tradition." The Age of Rembrandt: Studies in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting. Ed. Roland E. Fleischer and Susan Scott Munshower. [University Park, Pa.], 1988, p. 100.
Seymour Slive inFrans Hals. Ed. Seymour Slive. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. London, 1989, pp. 1, 129, 197, colorpl. III.
Irene van Thiel-Stroman inFrans Hals. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. London, 1989, p. 399, doc. 115, p. 400, doc. 119.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 48.
Claus Grimm. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. New York, 1990, pp. 51–52, 56, 223–24, 237, 291–92, no. C4, colorpls. 74b, 75, 78b (overall and details) [German ed., "Frans Hals: Das Gesamtwerk," Stuttgart, 1989, pp. 51–52, 56, 224, 237, 284–85, no. K4, colorpls. 74b, 75, 78b (overall and details)], states that the same model is seen in Hals's "Lute Player" (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
Peter [C.] Sutton. "Washington and London: Frans Hals." Burlington Magazine 132 (January 1990), pp. 67, 70.
Peter C. Sutton. Dutch & Flemish Seventeenth-Century Paintings: The Harold Samuel Collection. Cambridge, 1992, pp. 74, 76 n. 1, fig. 1.
Christiane Stukenbrock. Frans Hals—Fröhliche Kinder, Musikanten und Zecher: Eine Studie zu ausgewählten Motivgruppen und deren Rezeptionsgeschichte. PhD diss., Universität Köln. Frankfurt am Main, 1993, p. 140, fig. 39.
Cynthia Kortenhorst-von Bogendorf Rupprath inJudith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World. Exh. cat., Worcester Art Museum. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1993, p. 155 n. 14, p. 246, fig. 21a.
Seymour Slive. Dutch Painting 1600–1800. New Haven, 1995, pp. 36–38, 43, 63, fig. 34.
Ingeborg Worm inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 14, New York, 1996, p. 91.
Rüdiger Klessmann. Johann Liss: A Monograph and Catalogue Raisonné. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1999, p. 26, fig. 7, relates the composition to Liss's lost painting "Courting Couple with Cherries" (fig. 63, etching after the painting).
Wayne Franits. Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting: Its Stylistic and Thematic Evolution. New Haven, 2004, pp. 24–25, 263 n. 23, fig. 10 (color).
Gregory Martin inA House of Art: Rubens as Collector. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis, Antwerp. Schoten, Belgium, 2004, p. 204, fig. 43a.
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 30, 32, 35, 70, fig. 30 (color).
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. ix, 256 n. 3, pp. 260–66, no. 59, colorpl. 59; vol. 2, p. 873 n. 20.
Old Master Paintings, Part I. Christie's, New York. January 25, 2012, p. 146, under no. 48.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 284, no. 219, ill. pp. 216, 284 (color).