The Frans Hals Museum has succeeded in acquiring a masterpiece for the Haarlem municipal art collection thanks to the generous support of external funds. Festive Company in a Renaissance Room is a collaborative work by Dirck Hals and Dirck van Delen. Only five such collaborations by the two artists are known to exist, none of which were in Dutch museum collections until this acquisition. The purchased work was also their largest and most elaborate collaboration, and illustrates the unique position Haarlem occupied as a breeding ground of innovation in 17th-century Dutch painting.
The painting is a wonderful example of the ‘merry company’ genre that was popular in Haarlem in the 1620s and 1630s. These representations typically depict lavishly attired, fashionable young men and women. Dirck Hals (Haarlem 1591-1656), younger brother of Frans Hals, was one of the most influential interpreters of this particular genre. Indeed, he was a master in the presentation of figures, who often incorporated witticisms and subtle warnings against excess or frivolity in his depictions. The figures in the Festive Company in a Renaissance Room were also by his hand. The architecture was, meanwhile, painted by Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1604/5- Arnemuiden 1671) who predominantly worked in Middelburg and is renowned for his elaborate interiors. He left a number of free spaces with a white background in the architectural sections of the painting, on which Dirck Hals could later insert his figures.
ENRICHING THE HAARLEM MUNICIPAL AND DUTCH NATIONAL ART COLLECTIONS
The Frans Hals Museum has three other ‘merry company’ pieces by Dirck Hals in its collection (one of which was on long-term loan from the RCE). This latest acquisition enables the museum to show how Dirck Hals’ fame transcended Haarlem city limits during his own lifetime, with artists far and wide queuing up to work with him. The painting will be on display in the Haarlem Heroes. Other Masters exhibition from mid-September. It has been on view in the Frans Hals Museum earlier, when it was on loan from the RCE (National Cultural Heritage Agency) between 1948 and 2019. In 2019, restitution was made to the heirs of Jacob Lierens (1877-1949), a Jewish businessman and art collector from Amsterdam. In 1941, the latter sold the painting at auction, before his company was ‘Aryanised’ by the Nazis, and he and his wife were interned in transit camp Westerbork.
The Frans Hals Museum doesn’t benefit from a municipal procurement budget and was only able to acquire this magnificent painting thanks to generous support from the Rembrandt Association, Mondriaan Fund, National Acquisition Fund, Van Toorn Scholten Foundation, BankGiro Lottery, Fonds Marjon Ornstein, Friends of the Frans Hals Museum Association and a private Frans Hals Museum fund. Frans Hals Museum director, Ann Demeester: “Festive Company in a Renaissance Room by Dirck Hals and Dirck van Delen is an exceptionally festive, ornate and elegant masterpiece from 17th-century Haarlem painting. We’re thrilled that the generous support from various funds and private individuals has allowed us to acquire this extraordinary work of art for the Haarlem municipal art collection, ensuring that it remains visible to the public and future generations.”.