Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Heavy rain kept us cooped up in Amsterdam but by mid-afternoon it finally let up and we had just enough time to make the train to Haarlem and the Frans Hals museum. With only an hour to visit, we moved at a fairly good clip checking the items we wanted to see off our list when we rounded a corner and were stopped in our tracks by this large painting.

 "Four Regentesses of the Holy Spirits Almshouse", 1641 painted by Johannes Verspranks. The 5' by 7' painting of four middle-aged women, faces framed in magnificent millstone ruffs, was hanging alone on a plain fwall, all the more stunning in the stark setting. The figures are in repose, but alert with the accoutrement of their management and administrative work arrayed on the table in front of them. The scene looks like a meeting is ready to begin with one of the women just taking her seat. Richard took a close-up shot of the hand of the woman in the foreground.

These sturdy and calm looking women were talented managers and care givers, the career women of the mid 17th century. Three of them have rings visible on their index fingers. The plain piece of simple adornment along with their similar dark, luxurious clothing conveyed a subdued power and 
sense of sisterhood. 

Only one magnificent millstone ruff survived from this period and lives now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Softer and more casual than those worn by the Regentesses it is believed to have been worn by young men. The Regentesses' ruffs were more formal, pleated and heavily starched. 

Keeping well dressed must have been a huge job considering the dirt, dust and grime that were part of everyday life in those days, even in the lives of the upper classes and wealthy. If these ruffs weren't enough to care for - imagine keeping them clean, ironed and starched - consider the foot decoration men wore during the same period, at least men who were having their portraits painted. Three rosettes decorate the socks of the lutist in the family portrait below while his garter sports a fancy bow, a match to the one on his shoes. This painting by Jan Miense Molenaer, of his family, also hangs in the Franz Hals museum.

You'd need a "girl with a pearl", like the fictional Greta to do all that fancy bow work and collar starching.  We saw Vermeer's masterpiece on another visit to the Mauritshuis museum collection in the Haag, but that's another story.

Back to Jan Molenaer who was married to Judith Jansdr Leyster, one of the first female artists in the Netherlands. Her painting, "Monsieur Pekelharing" circa 1629 also hangs in the Franz Hals museum. Some experts speculate that she was a student of Hals; other accounts have her competing with him. She had a commercial studio with a couple of male painters working for her but apparently slowed down after having 5 children (duh) and painted privately thereafter in a studio with her husband.

The museum visit was short, but excellent and as we left we had a quick look at the lovely enclosed garden:

then went on to have dinner in the Haarlem town square:

 where we enjoyed a simple dinner with a delicious, large glass of Brugse Zot Belgian Beer.

1 comment:

  1. Some very nice photography here as well as wonderful paintings. Hope that you made it to see the Vermeers at the Reichsmuseum (sic). Were you gorging on rijstaffel and pannikoken?