Frans Hals: Malle Babbe

Malle Babbe: Frans Hals

Frans Hals’s Golden Age Genre Painting Malle Babbe from 1633-35 is inscribed with it’s title “Malle Babbe” (“malle” being Dutch for “crazy”), and the subject has been identified as a well-known woman who lived in Haarlem at the time of the artist.

Both Malle Babbe and Frans Hals’s son Pietr were residents at a local psychiatric hospital called Het Dolhuys, and the artist likely knew Malle Babbe personally.

The beer mug and the owl serve as symbols of drunkenness (a common Dutch phrase being “zoo beschonken als een uil” meaning “drunk as an owl”), signs of which can also be read on Malle Babbe’s face. This image also gave way to numerous copies and inspired works, one which was long credited to Frans Hals, another by Gustav Courbet, and several others by American artists.

Frans Hals’s Malle Babbe can be found at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, Germany.

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