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Banquet officers of the company of St. 175 x 324 cm
The painting was painted in 1616, when the artist was about thirty years old. Just a few years earlier, a truce was concluded with the Spaniards, the actual independence of the country was recognized (legally it will be recognized only by the Ministerial Peace in 1648).
The era of heroic struggle has not yet receded into the past, the Harlem arrows are yesterday's participants in this struggle. Their self-esteem has a hint of clever, good-natured humor, they are full of persistent self-affirmation, but they do not contrast themselves to the viewer, as is usually the case in ceremonial portraits of that time. They turn to the viewer kindly and naturally, as if ready to accept him in their company. A friendly corporate spirit reigns here. The unity of the general mood is combined with the vivid expressiveness of individual portraits: here is Colonel van Berkeirode (second from left) full of self-esteem, and a mocking fat captain van der Meer (sitting in front of the table, turning sideways to the viewer), and a smart dandy - standard bearer van Offenberg, standing at the right edge of the picture. In the years 1612-1615, Hals himself served in this company and knew all of them well.
The composition seems simple, but in reality it is dominated by a carefully thought out order. Both in individual figures and persons, and in their grouping and in the image of space, Hals achieved a special vital convincingness, that naturalness, which will become an integral feature of 17th century art. In contrast with a rather dark overall color, diagonals of motley banners, red and white scarves tied over the officers' shoulders, a white linen tablecloth and a beautifully painted still life on the table stand out. Dense painting conveys materiality, weight of objects, their completed stable form. However, here and in the poses of the figures and in a free brushstroke in places, that laid-back mobility appears, which will subsequently be so characteristic of all the work of Hals.