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A Fiddler, c. 1630

School of Haarlem

Dutch
Oil on panel
14-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (36.8 x 29.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1969.42.1.P
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on view

Borrowing much in terms of the spirit and the animation of his older brother, Frans (1582/83–1666), Dirck Hals was a painter known for small format “Merry Companies” in monochromatic brown tones with restrained splashes of color. In this painting, the stylish fiddler strikes one of Hals’s most familiar poses: his left leg is crossed over the extended right leg at the knee, giving the appearance of precarious imbalance. The colorful red hose, garters and shoelaces, as well as his jacket and jaunty hat are typical of the styles that were popular in the 1620s and 1630s, and can be found in many Dutch genre and portrait paintings from this period.

Music was a theme that was repeated often in Hals’s work, as were his stock of animated figures, which he was sometimes called upon to add to other painters’ landscapes. But his work was generally focused on interior scenes, with people enjoying themselves, reveling in the music and company of others. Occasionally he composed solitary figures, such as this one, seemingly lost in thought or caught in a quieter, contemplative mood. Here, the violinist plays his tune by heart, eschewing the open music book at hand. He is occupied in his own thoughts and unattended, his isolation emphasized by the long, empty bench upon which he sits.

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