Merrymakers at Shrovetide (c.1616-1617)

Hals, Frans (c.1582-1666)

Merrymakers at Shrovetide
Oil on canvas, 131.4 x 99.7 cm
Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew York

Shrovetide, now better known as Mardi Gras, is the traditional period of indulgence before the fasting and self-discipline of Lent. In the seventeenth-century Netherlands, it was also the occasion for theatrical performances by the painters’ guilds. Here, Hals depicts two stock figures from these plays, Hans Worst, with a sausage dangling from his cap, and Pekelharing, who sports a garland of salted fish and eggs. They flank a richly dressed girl (probably a boy in drag, as women were not permitted to perform on these occasions). Still life elements litter the foreground, evoking both the traditional foods of the festival and an abundance of erotic innuendo. (MET)