Georges de La Tour was a French painter who was born in Vic-Sur-Seille, Lorraine in the year 1593. He came from a simple family of craftspeople. La Tour was a popular, virtuous, and ambitious businessman, who soon accumulated a lot of wealth and became famous for his distinguished painting work. During the 1630s, an epidemic and war struck the Lorraine region. In 1638, Lorraine City was ravaged by fire, which actually destroyed most of Georges de La Tour’s early works. In 1639, Georges de La Tour was recognized as the official painter of the Louis XIII (Beck 35).
In 1643, Georges de la Tour came back to Lineville and was already considered to be a famous painter.
At the end of the year, he had produced a series of paintings that mainly depicted religious content. Generally, most of his paintings contained mythological and religious scenes. While creating his works, the painter used artificial lighting in order to achieve a high contrast chiaroscuro effect. Georges de La Tour is an artist who was reconsidered only in the 20th century. Although his established composition comprises of slightly more than twenty pictures, all of them are of high quality and intensity, which has in fact made him one of the most respected French painters of the 17th century. In 1652, Georges de La Tour died together with his wife during an epidemic in Lineville.
Frans Hals was born in Antwerp in the year 1580. His family later moved to Haarlem, Holland in order to escape the Spanish invasion. Frans Hals was a catholic, and it is likely that he retained his faith throughout his life because of his unique choice of subject matter, which in most cases focused on children and portraits of marriage. The inventory document indicates that Frans Hals was an apprentice of Karel Van Mander, who was a Flemish artist and art historian.
The earliest example of Hals’ work was the portrait of Jacobus Zaffius that was completed in 1611
However, the painting that established his career was actually a life-size group picture of 1616, which is called Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard. Hals’ subject matter mainly centered around representatives of Dutch society; his artistic work indicates that he actually painted people from lower classes, artisans in and around bars, and social gatherings or even taverns.
Frans Hals essentially drew his inspiration from the style called realism, and he was able to express his work with a freer approach than most of his fellow artists. He even broke numerous conventions with regard to painting procedures, which can be seen in the picture Merrymakers at Shrovetide. While working on this picture, Frans Hals used a more radical approach and painting style and diversified this image using numerous colors, which created new ways of seeing light that were normally beyond the traditional methods of his time.
During his career, he managed to complete a total of 300 paintings
Most of his paintings depicted wealthy individuals. Merrymakers at Shrovetide enabled Frans Hals to gain popularity because of the picture’s stylistic composition; moreover, portraits were in high demand during his career. Although Frans Hals’ creativity and painting style were known throughout the Netherlands, at the end of the 17th century, his painting work fell out of favor. Frans Hals died in Haarlem in the year 1666; he was then buried in the St. Bavo church.
The picture Merrymakers at Shrovetide by Frans Hals was probably painted in the year 1616 to1617, and it is considered to be one of Hals’ surviving works. The picture’s Flemish qualities such as bright palette, impulsive rhythms, and broad brushwork over the entire surface of the picture were said to have been inspired partly by the contemporaneous art work of Jacob Jordaens. In Merrymakers at Shrovetide, the level of quality and manner of execution is exclusively consistent with the inscription work of Jacob Jordaens (Beck 34).
The subject of the painting was Shrove Tuesday that was actually devoted to imprudent behavior, and popular foods such as sausages and pancakes were used. In the picture, a young woman is surrounded by salted mussels and herrings, which in fact symbolized female and male genitals. In the picture, there is also an egg, which was considered as an aphrodisiac and was normally a sign of male sexual prowess. The figure is wearing a pig’s trotter, which is the symbol of gluttony, and holding a foxtail, which is an emblem of imprudence. Sausages can be also seen on the table; they are sprinkled with an assortment of items referring to female and male forms.
George de La Tour’s Fortune Teller is one of the painter’s earliest masterpieces
It is assumed that the painting was created between 1620 and 1639. This canvas is signed at the top right corner, thus identifying that La Tour was working in Lineville in Lorraine, where he died. In this picture, Georges de La Tour represents five peculiarly dressed three-quarter size figures. In the center of the picture, there is a naive boy surrounded by four wanderer women. This painting portrays the moment when the naive young man of some wealth is having his fortune told by the old woman on the right; she takes the coin from his hand not as payment, but as a part of a custom, according to which she would cross his hand with it. The women portrayed in the picture are gypsies, hence furthering the stereotype of the time according to which they were mainly depicted as thieves (Stokstad 76).
As the young woman is engrossed in the fortune telling, the leftmost woman is stealing the coin purse from the young man’s pocket, while her companion in the picture has her hand ready to receive the wealth. It is not clear if the girl on the left of the boy is a gypsy, but in this picture, she appears to be cutting a medal from the chain that is worn by the boy. In addition, the figures in the picture appear to be remarkably close as if in a play. This clearly indicates that the composition may have been influenced by a theatrical scene.
When comparing the size of the two pictures, Georges de La Tour’s picture is much larger. It is 40 1/8x 48 5/8 inches, which is approximately 101.9 by 123.5 centimeters, as compared to Frans Hals’ portrait that is only 51 ¾ x 39 ¼ inches, which is approximately 131.4 by 99.7 centimeters (Kleiner 23). Furthermore, these two pictures are unique, as the two painters used oil on canvas while creating their pictures.
The style portrayed by Frans Hals in his picture clearly reveals his desire to express himself
In fact, he gives us a picture of an ideal world as he visualizes it. The way his ideas materialize on a piece of canvas when painting Fortune Teller clearly shows that Frans Hals had a perfect mind in painting. In addition, Hals showed that he had developed a remarkably inventive and personal technique. In Merrymakers at Shrovetide, there are various distinctive painting elements such as simplicity of treatment, directness of approach, and open fracture.
On the contrary, the style of Georges de La Tour seems to be incredibly different and unique from that of Frans Hals. De La Tour devoted his paintings mainly to religious subjects, which are thought to have influenced the space and the content of his Fortune Teller. Furthermore, Fortune Teller has been considered to borrow various specific elements of some other artists such the Caravaggesque style; for example, the use of chiaroscuro and tenebristic techniques in his Fortune Teller picture.