The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
It is paintings such as Merrymakers at Shrovetide (cover) that keep alive the reputation
of Dutch Master Frans Hals (born after 1580–1666). Not his reputation
as a painter—that is solid enough—but his reputation as a tippler,
a spendthrift, even a wife-beater. The evidence for such characterization
rests on little more than a confusion of names (he had a namesake cousin who
was, in fact, all of these), on biographical accounts written more than 50
years after his death, and on some dunning records from creditors. Added to
the evidence is the fact that although Hals worked rapidly, his lifetime output
of paintings was low; estimates range from a low of 168 to a high of 290.
On the other hand, Hals was careless about signing or dating his work; ongoing
study may well increase the size of his known oeuvre. Again, Hals did not
seem to be especially ambitious to be known beyond Haarlem, where he had lived
since boyhood and where he would eventually die. Finally, it should not be
overlooked that other projects, bringing more income than painting, took his
time. Judging from receipts carrying his name, he could have been either a
picture collector or a dealer, perhaps both.
Southgate MT. Merrymakers at Shrovetide. JAMA. 2004;291(7):792. doi:10.1001/jama.291.7.792