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Frans Hals – Malle Babbe

Artist

Frans Hals was born between 1580 and 1585 in Antwerpen. He died on August 10, 1666 in Haarlem. He belongs to the most important portrait painters of his time, especially after the deaths of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthonis van Dyck in 1640 and 1641 respectively. Despite his popularity as a painter, Frans Hals suffered from a lack of money. Five of his 10 kids also became painters. Particularly Frans Hals der Jüngere (1618-1669) induced wild speculations in the art world.

Artwork

Malle Babbe or “Crazy Babara”, is also known as Hill Bobbe or The witch of Haarlem. The name “Hille Bobbe” originates from a reading failure on the frame of the picture, which Frans Hals did not create. Theophile Thore corrected this mistake in papers he published on Frans Hals in 1868 and 1869. Nowadays it is seen as invalid. The painting was created between 1633 and 1635. It measures 64 x 75 cm (width x height).

Brief description

With hard, sketch-like strokes of the brush Frans Hals shapes his Malle Babbe, Crazy Babara. She’s sitting at the table with typical clothes of the 17. Century. Her head glances sideways as she laughs without any apparent reason, while holding an open pewter on the table. Either a cat or an owl is sitting on her left shoulder. The pewter on her right and the owl on the left of the picture create a diagonal, which has a certain symbolic character. Perhaps alcoholism and the attribute of a witch in the form of an owl is suggested, in any case the motif seems oppressive. One cannot tell in which room she is in nor if she is laughing or talking on her own or not. It seems as if she has, under the influence of alcohol and with company of the owl – an animal that symbolizes mystery and wisdom - enraptured the world.

Genre & Material

Painting of the Baroque. Painted in oil on a canvas.

Where can I find this in Berlin?

In the Gemäldegalerie at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785 Berlin. To find out how to get there, please click the link below the description.

The portrayed woman actually existed. The Gemeentearchief in Haarlem gave disclosure on her. She stayed in a working house in Haarlem, which was to that time also a mental hospital and jail. She stayed in the section for people suffering from leprosy and paid about 65 Gulden towards rent. Frans Hals’s son Pieter, who was also living in the work house, was considered mentally ill by the major and was sentenced to stay there for the rest of his life.

 

With hard, sketch-like strokes of the brush Frans Hals shapes his Malle Babbe, Crazy Babara. She’s sitting at the table with typical clothes of the 17. Century. Her head glances sideways as she laughs without any apparent reason, while holding an open pewter on the table. Either a cat or an owl is sitting on her left shoulder. The pewter on her right and the owl on the left of the picture create a diagonal, which has a certain symbolic character. Perhaps alcoholism and the attribute of a witch in the form of an owl is suggested, in any case the motif seems oppressive. One cannot tell in which room she is in nor if she is laughing or talking on her own or not. It seems as if she has, under the influence of alcohol and with company of the owl – an animal that symbolizes mystery and wisdom – enraptured the world.

Hier geht es zu dem Museum in Berlin, in dem Sie dieses Meisterwerk finden

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