Artworks
The Merry Drinker
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dromero's picture

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At first glance, the Merry Drinker or A Militiaman Holding a Berkemeyer could be someone you might see as a regular in the local pub, that is, if you regularly see people in 17th century dress at your local pub.

If you think about it, it might not be surprising that Frans Hals would paint someone who looks like they’ve already had a few drinks, because for many years, he had the reputation of being a heavy drinker himself, and even a wife-beater. However, those reports turned out to be wrong, due to a case of mistaken identity, at least about the spousal abuse.

We’re still not quite sure about the drinking part either, although his reputation in that capacity was probably exaggerated as well; it mostly came from anecdotes from a 1718 biography written by Arnold Houbraken. One thing that has been documented were his recurring financial problems; he even had trouble paying his dues to the painters guild, while his first wife was buried in a pauper’s grave. It’s possible that could have had something to do with excessive drinking or maybe he was just bad with money. That being said, there was definitely a lot of drinking and carousing going on in Flemish paintings of that time, because why not? People have to do something with their evenings, right?

This painting, which hangs in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, was completed between 1628 and 1630 and it is unknown if it represents an actual person that Hals knew or if this is a portrait conjured from his imagination. Either way, the man seems to be having a good time, although that berkemeyer he’s holding looks like it could tip over pretty easily. The gentleman who’s depicted certainly looks much more capable at holding his liquor than the unfortunate woman in another Hals painting, Malle Babbe, who really looks drunk, maybe even a bit deranged (she was imprisoned twenty years after she was painted).

Hals may or may not have been drinking when he painted the Merry Drinker, but I don’t think that matters much now; I’d still join him for one at the pub!

Sources

Sources

  1. "Biography of Frans Hals." Frans Hals - The Complete Works - Biography. Accessed June 23, 2019. http://www.frans-hals.org/biography.html.
  2. Janson, J. n.d. “Frans Hals, The Merry Drinker.” http://www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/hals_a.html#.XProjlVKiUk.
  3. Nichols, Tom. "Double Vision: The Ambivalent Imagery of Drunkenness in Early Modern Europe." Past & Present 222, no. Suppl9 (2014): 146-67.
  4. Sperling, Matthew. "Brushes with the bottle." Apollo, October 2013, 66 . General OneFile (accessed June 7, 2019). http://link.galegroup.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/apps/doc/A3484517....

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about The Merry Drinker

The Merry Drinker is a painting by Frans Hals, from 1628-1630.

Description

The painting has dimensions 81 x 66.5 centimeters. It is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Merry Drinker.