The Merry Drinker

This painting by Frans Hals, c. 1628 – C. 1630, is properly titled A Militiaman Holding a Berkemeyer. It is a famous painting and it is also known as the ‘Merry Drinker’,

The text accompanying this painting by Frans Hals states that the militiaman is drinking merrily as he raises his glass to toast us.

And yet, and yet – is the merry drinker so merry? There is a kind of vulnerability, perhaps a melancholy. Do you see it?

What does it say about a person who sees one thing while others apparently see something different?

And what if I had entitled this piece, ‘The Melancholy Drinker’? Would people have seen something different than merriment if they were triggered by a different description?

Of course, it is a painting, and four hundred years later, who can say what the painter intended to acheive?

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