Dirck was the younger brother (perhaps by as much as ten years) and pupil of Frans Hals, who had emigrated north from his native Antwerp with his parents at least by 1591, the year that saw Dirck's birth in Haarlem. He became best known for the genre of 'merry companies', which was first introduced to the Haarlem painters by the Rotterdam artist Willem Buytewech, who lived in Haarlem between 1612 and 1617. Dirck assimilated a style that drew both on Buytewech and his brother.
The present lot is one of Hals’ two earliest known interiors; the other is in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (inv. no. 2814), and is also dated 1623. The works from this period show Hals was strongly influenced by Willem Buytewech, even to the point of including figures in his paintings that derive directly from Buytewech’s work. In this case, Hals has borrowed both the lady that is seated behind the table and the gentleman behind, resting his elbow on the ledge from Buytewech’s drawing Merry company on a terrace in the Boymans Museum, Rotterdam (inv. no. H 165)
Whilst the depiction of merry companies had been popular since the beginning of the 17th century, they were normally set in elegant gardens or outdoor terraces. Hals’ innovative approach to the subject moved the figures indoors in the early 1620s, resulting in a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere.