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Art and Images in Psychiatry
April 4, 2011

Jester With a Lute

Author Affiliations


Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(4):338. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.20

The first of April some do say/Is set apart for All Fools’ Day/ . . . on this day are people sent/on purpose of pure merriment.Poor Robin's Almanack, 1760

Tom Killigrew hath a fee out of the wardrobe [Fund] for cap and bells, under the title of the King's foole or Jester, and may with privilege revile or jeere anybody, the greatest person, without offence, by the privilege of his place.—Samuel Pepys' diary, February 13, 1668

For April, a month when we celebrate mischief-making, we turn to Frans Hals (1580-1666). Hals' Jester With a Lute, completed in 1624-1625, depicts a jester with a merry and mischievous grin playing a melody (cover). The viewer's eyes are drawn up toward the larger-than-life-sized musician, whose body, slightly turned, elicits a sense of animated movement. The contrast of the earthy neutral background and his colorful dress make him vibrant. His fingers are precisely positioned on the lute's strings; his face expresses smug satisfaction. Is his smile a response to his attentive audience or an inner reflection on a clever jest he is about to impart? Thus, Hals evokes the viewer's curiosity as he frames the jester's joyful presence.1Image description not available.