Malle Babbe' ("malle" means mad) is undoubtedly one of Hals's masterpieces. The powerful handling of paint conveys emotion, spontaneity and a natural quality in a virtuoso fashion. The complex movement underlines this effect. The owl indicates a second level of meaning. lt was seen as a symbol of wisdom, but as a night bird it also stood for the darker sides of human behaviour, Iike stupidity and drunkenness. The prominently placed pewter tankard leaves no doubt about which vice is meant here.


  • Title: Malle Babbe
  • Creator: Frans Hals
  • Date Created: around 1633
  • Physical Dimensions: w66.2 x h78.5 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Claudia Banz // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: Frans Hals was a Dutch painter of the Golden Age and is best known for his portraits. Most of them show wealthy citizens, as in 'Portrait of Catharina Hooft and her Nurse' (1619-20) or 'Malle Babbe' (1630), as well as large groups, often featuring civil guards. He studied under Karel van Mander, became a member of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke and worked as an art restorer for the city council. After the death of Peter Paul Rubens and Anton van Dyck, he became the most important portraitist in the Netherlands. His portrait of René Descartes in 1649 remains the most famous work of his life. He was a painter who practiced a realistic style: the faces and expressions he captured were not idealized but well distinguishable. He is furthermore distinguished by his fondness for daylight, his free handling of the brush and a silvery sheen on the canvas, although his style subsequently darkened somewhat during his active period.
  • Artist Place of Death: Haarlem, Netherlands
  • Artist Place of Birth: Antwerp, Belgium
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1580/1666-08-16

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