Dirck Hals was a well-known painter of genre scenes with happy companies. His paintings are light-hearted, at times even funny. He was a younger brother and pupil of Frans Hals.
Here we see a poor gypsy woman who is reading the hand of a rich, elegant man. Palmistry was considered a sin in Christian, Catholic Europe. It stood for self-deception, for manipulation of God’s laws.
About Dirck Hals
Haarlem 1591 – 1656 Haarlem
Painter of genre scenes, especially of merry companies (small groups of people drinking and having a good time).
Pupil of his 11 years elder brother, the famous portrait painter Frans Hals. Their parents were of Flemish origin. Being Protestants they had fled to the Northern Netherlands after the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, Alexander Farnese, had taken Antwerp in 1585. Their two eldest sons, Frans and Joost, were actually born in Antwerp, our Dirck in Holland, in Haarlem.
Dirck was born and worked in Haarlem. He became a member of the local Painter’s Guild in 1627. He is documented in Leiden in 1641/42 and 1648/49.
The Roma or Romani or Gypsies are a nomadic people who left NW India roughly 1500 years ago and arrived in Western Europe from the East in the 15th century. Although they were at first welcome in most countries and towns, this attitude changed rapidly and dramatically. Just as the Jews they were being stigmatized and criminalized. This was the start of a long history of accusations of bringing the plague, of spying for the Turks, of stealing and cheating. This resulted in discrimination, forced labour, persecution, abduction of their children, ethnic cleansing, deportation, expulsion and killing.
During the 17th and 18th century the Romani were called 'Egyptians' or 'pagans' in the Low Countries. The designation 'Egyptian' (hence 'gypsy') refers to the story that they had fled from Egypt after the Muslim conquest of the country during the 7th century AD.
Roma were active as musicians, fortune tellers, dealers in herbs and medication, seasonal workers in the farms, etc. Some survived as beggars. They literally lived at the edge of society, in tents and huts, in regions where the vegetation and the conditions of the ground made it difficult for a central control.
Why were the Gypsies persecuted?
- because they had a dark skin, this in Christian society where a light skin referred to the angels, a dark one to the devils;
- because they were nomads and therefore outcasts;
- because of prejudices against their customs;
- because no one understood their language;
- because they had invented a story that they were the descendants of the Egyptians who had enslaved the Israelites and who therefore had been condemned by God to perpetual wandering;
- because through fortune telling and palmistry they competed with the priests to win the superstitious minds;
- because they worked outside the rigid system of the trade guilds.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it shows you that migration is of all times.
Because the rich attire of the gentleman is magnificently painted.