6. Merrymakers at Shrovetide

Merrymakers at Shrovetide. Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in public domain

Another racy Dutch painting, by Frans Hals, is of “Shrovetide Revelers” (i.e. Mardi Gras partiers). Two men in clown costumes are leaning on the shoulders of an elaborately dressed or costumed maiden. The man on the left makes a sexy gesture, while the sausages hanging over the shoulder of the one on the right also seem suggestively phallic (like the deflated bagpipe on the table in front of them, and the bowl-full of remarkably phallic sausages).

But wait: is that really a maiden? Hint: he has an Adam’s apple! It is in fact a cross-dressed boy; perhaps his declamatory gesture identifies him as a boy actor, possibly one of the boy actors who in that time played female roles in the theater. In any case, the men around him seem to want him to play a queen off-stage as well….