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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Jester With a Lute

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(4):338. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.20.
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For April, a month when we celebrate mischief-making, we turn to Frans Hals (1580-1666). Hals' Jester With a Lute, completed in 1624-1625, depicts a jester with a merry and mischievous grin playing a melody (cover). The viewer's eyes are drawn up toward the larger-than-life-sized musician, whose body, slightly turned, elicits a sense of animated movement. The contrast of the earthy neutral background and his colorful dress make him vibrant. His fingers are precisely positioned on the lute's strings; his face expresses smug satisfaction. Is his smile a response to his attentive audience or an inner reflection on a clever jest he is about to impart? Thus, Hals evokes the viewer's curiosity as he frames the jester's joyful presence.1

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Frans Hals (1580-1666), Dutch. Jester With a Lute, 1624-1625. Oil on canvas, 70 × 62 cm (27.56 × 24.41 in). Louvre, Paris, France (http://www.louvre.fr). Photo credit: Peter Willi/The Bridgeman Art Library International, New York, New York.

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Jan Matejko (1838-1893), Polish. The Court Jester Stańczyk (1480-1560) Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514), During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court, 1862. Oil on canvas, 120 × 88 cm (47.24 × 34.65 in). National Museum, Warsaw (http://www.ddg.art.pl/nm/collections/arts/14.stanczyk.html). Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, New York.

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