HAARLEM, the Netherlands — If you were asked to quickly close your eyes and conjure a picture of the Dutch Golden Age, you might come up with an image of dour, pale figures clad all in black with stiff white ruffs bracing their necks. But it may be time to update that image.
Jokes, and particularly coarse or bawdy humor, were apparently central to the life and art of the Dutch 17th century, according to a new exhibition at the Frans Hals Museum here, “The Art of Laughter: Humor in the Golden Age” which runs from Nov. 11 through March 18, 2018. The exhibition features about 60 masterpieces from leading artists such as Hals, Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Judith Leyster and Gerard van Honthorst, inspired by comic characters, explicit humor and visual punning — with lots of images of people laughing.
“If we learned anything from the research, it was how incredibly important and how widespread humor was in the Golden Age in Dutch culture, but also in painting,” said Anna Tummers, one of the show’s curators at the museum, in an interview a few weeks before the opening. “The more we worked on it, the more we realized quite how many paintings have a joke as their very core.”
One of the best known comic images of the 17th century is Hals’s own “Pekelharing,” (Pickled Herring) a portrait of a jester who is red-faced and “pickled” from the inside with liquor. The portrait apparently hung in a popular bar, where those on the road to a similar condition could recognize themselves in it.
More information can be found in the artical of the New York Times – Humor in the Golden Age