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Course: Europe 1300 - 1800 > Unit 9

Lesson 4: Dutch Republic

Hals, Singing Boy with Flute

Frans Hals, Singing Boy with Flute, c. 1623, oil on canvas, 68.8 x 55.2 cm (Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin). Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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Video transcript

(piano playing) Male voiceover: It's as if he's saying, "No. No. No more. "I don't want to play yet another song." (laughter) Female voiceover: You imagine that he's been singing and playing the flute so beautifully that his audience is asking for more. Male voiceover: Well, look at the pleasure on his face. He looks so self-satisfied. He's just turned away. His hand is up. (female laughs) The other hand is still on the flute as if he's just stopped with his finger in one of it's holes. Female voiceover: "I can't possibly play another." Male voiceover: (laughs) Or he could just be pausing in his singing, which is a standard type that we see in 17th century Dutch painting. The thing, of course, that carries this painting, is its brushwork, its sense of informality, its sense of the momentary, the way in which the fluidity of the artist's hand moving through this canvas, and the motion of the figure himself, are so beautifully brought together. Female voiceover: I thought you were going to say what carries this painting is the feather. Male voiceover: (laughs) Okay. Female voiceover: (laughs) because it's so wild, this giant white feather that completes this circular form that starts down by his mouth. Male voiceover: There's all that space above, so that his face is even slightly lower than center. Also, the sense that this space to move in, that the artist has only captured this one frame, and that there's plenty of other things that are going around outside of what we can see. Female voiceover: You don't normally think about Hals as a colorist, but the colors are fabulous in this painting, these mauve purples, and the blue of his sleeve that just comes out a little bit around his wrist, and touches of blue in the green on his left shoulder. Then, touches of bluish white around his wrists. Male voiceover: All of which tends to highlight the ruddy warm color of the flute itself, and of course of his cheeks. It is just a wonderfully playful moment so expertly caught. Yet, the artist makes the image look so easy to create. Female voiceover: His face turns away, and yet we really feel very engaged with this figure. An incredible sense of bravura and immediacy. Those are the things that Hals is known for. (piano playing)