Obelisk Art History
Judith Leyster

Jolly Toper

Jolly Toper, Judith Leyster
Jolly Toper, zoomed in
89 cmJolly Toper scale comparison85 cm
See Jolly Toper in the Kaleidoscope

Jolly Toper is a Northern Renaissance Oil on Canvas Painting created by Judith Leyster in 1629. It lives at the Frans Hals Museum in Netherlands. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Hats and Drinking. Download

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To the modern eye, Judith Leyster’s Jolly Toper is a strange painting. While Leyster painted many happy people at the bottle, this jovial fellow stands out. His face is enlarged and knowing, he’s a caricature with tiny arms — an inside joke.

And sure enough, in the Netherlanders, in the 17th century, he was a joke. Our Jolly Toper was better known as Peeckelhaeringh, a Dutch word for ‘Pickled Herring'. Peeckelhaeringh was an immensely popular jester, whose drunken antics were the themes of comedy plays. The Toper’s gesture, raising his jug to show that his drink is empty, was known as a Kannenkijker, ‘Jug-Looker’ — a symbol that the show was over, time to go home and sleep it off.

Reed Enger, "Jolly Toper," in Obelisk Art History, Published January 31, 2016; last modified May 19, 2021, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/judith-leyster/jolly-toper/.

Further reading atwikipedia.org
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