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The Cover
February 18, 2004

Merrymakers at Shrovetide

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(7):792. doi:10.1001/jama.291.7.792

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.

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