A group of young people are gathered around a table in an elegant garden, laid with delicious pies. They wear expensive, fashionable clothing with magnificent lace collars and accessories, such as a fan of ostrich feathers. They are flaunting themselves and flirting with abandon. There can be no doubt about it: love is in the air.
Merry companies were a new subject in Dutch art in the early seventeenth century. Esaias van de Velde was one of the genre’s pioneers – this painting is his earliest merry company. It seems that he was still finding his way with the new subject: X-ray images have revealed that the old procuress on the far left was originally a young, fashionable woman.