Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


BARTHOLOMEUS MOLENAER (Haarlem 1610 / 1628 – Haarlem 1650)

Twelfth Night

oil on canvas

21 x 32 inches          (54.5 x 82 cm.)

Bartholomeus along with his brother Jan Miense and Klaes Molenaer were all painters based in Haarlem. They were all members of the Guild of St. Luke, and would be in close contact all of their lives. Paintings by Bartholomeus “have long carried attributions” to Jan Miense Molenaer due to their shared subject matter of merry company scenes. [1] A year after he joined the guild, Bartholomeus married Cuyniera Hendricx in 1641. They had four children: Frans, Jan, Maria and Claes. His workshop was located in the house of his mother-in-law. [2]

Dr. Fred G. Meijer has confirmed this panel to be by Bartholomeus Molenaer. The shadowed area in the lower left corner as well as the small clump of hay are characteristic traits of the painter. Bartholomeus, as well as Jan Miense, depicted scenes of Twelfth Night. Traditionally Twelfth Night or the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, the thirteenth day after Christmas. A custom that became popular in the seventeenth century at the start of the party were for celebrants to draw slips of paper that denoted fictitious silly characters for the revelers to impersonate. One would be crowned King of Fools. This was followed by drinking and feasting, that usually ended in bedlam. [3]

Bartholomeus has chosen to depict the start of the festivities set in a large barnlike interior. A stack of slips of paper lay in the center of the table on the right. A black hatted peasant stands by the table waving his slip in the air. From the numerous delighted expressions of the other guests, one presumes he is about to be anointed King for the evening. A bearded man, seated on a bench to his right, displays his slip with obvious contentment. Meanwhile preparations for the feast are underway on the left side of the scene. Another guest arrives through the center doorway, while others appear already to be deep in their cups. A seated man at the table, wearing a yellow jerkin, turns to the viewer as if to welcome him into the scene. The only sober member of the company appears to be the tabby cat seated on a foot warmer, who perhaps serves as a contrasting moral compass.


Dr. Fred G. Meijer, upon inspection, has confirmed the painting to be by Bartholomeus Molenaer, and we would like to thank him for his assistance in

[1] Dennis P. Weller, Jan Miense Molenaer, Painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Hudson Hills Press, New York, 2002, pp. 3, 21-22.

[2] Pieter Biesboer, Netherland Inventories, Collections of Paintings in Haarlem 1572 – 1745, The Provenance Index of the Getty Research Institute, 2001, p. 126.

[3] William D. Crump, “Twelfth Night” in The Christmas Encyclopedia, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina 2013, p. 173; and “Twelfth Night” at Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder,


Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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