Title Company of Captain Reinier Reael, known as the 'Meagre Company'
Artist Frans Hals ( Pieter Codde )
Technique Oil on canvas
Dimensions 209 x 429 cm
Just to see that painting would make the journey to Amsterdam worthwhile.' wrote Vincent van Gogh in 1885, after having seen this work in the Rijksmuseum. He particularly liked the 'orange banner in the left corner,' he had 'seldom seen a more divinely beautiful figure'. The painting that caused such a sensation was the group portrait of the crossbowmen's militia under Captain Reinier Reael, painted by Frans Hals and Pieter Codde in 1637. The painting has been known for centuries as the 'Meagre Company', because the figures portrayed all appear remarkably thin.
In 1633 Frans Hals was commissioned to paint the portraits of Captain Reynier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz. Blaeuw with their militia unit. He had to paint the picture in Amsterdam, where the militiamen lived. Hals himself lived in Haarlem; which meant that he had to travel back and forth regularly.
The Amsterdam civic guard had asked Frans Hals because of his reputation for lively civic guard portraits, and because he avoided staid, formally posed group portraits. But the militiamen could not have taken into account that Hals might start to find commuter travel tedious.