Frans Hals (Dutch, 1582/83–1666)
Oil on canvas; 51 3/4 x 39 1/4 in. (131.4 x 99.7 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.605)
This important early painting by Hals dates from about 1615 and recalls contemporary works by the Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens in its coloring, brushwork, and crowded composition. The subject is Vastenavond (Shrovetide or Mardi Gras), a pre-Lenten feast devoted to fools. Two of the figures are recognizable as stock characters from comic theater: Peeckelhaering (Pickled Herring) with the garland of eggs and sausages, and Hans Wurst with sausages on his cap. The young woman (a male actor?) is surrounded by food, objects such as the bagpipe, and an obscene gesture, all of which comprise a chorus of sexual references. The painting inspired copies and versions by Haarlem artists and in its coarse humor brings to mind Adriaen Brouwer, Hals's famous Flemish pupil of the 1620s.