Jan Salomonsz de Bray: The Regents of the Leper-, Plague- and Madhouse in Haarlem (1667)

 (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Jan Salomonsz. de Bray (1627-1697). This painting shows the board of directors, the regents, of the Dolhuys of Haarlem. Like many other cities, Haarlem had an hospice outside its city wall for lepers, plague victims, people who had various other infectious diseases and psychiatric patients (called 'lunatics'). Treatment of these sick was very rudimentary, the main purpose of these hospices were to keep the sick out of the cities. The 'Dolhuys' (Dutch for Madhouse) in Haarlem had a special purpose as it had the privilege since 1413 to test lepers from all over the provinces of Holland and Zeeland and grant them a vuilbrief, or document certifying their status as leper. With this document the leper was allowed to beg. This is also depicted in the painting. The servant (in Dutch he is called a 'voorspreker') in the back brings a young leper to the regents who give him a vuilbrief. The regent in the middle is handing the boy his 'vuilbrief' while his other hand is on the money pouch - signifying the generosity of the regents. The boy is holding a lazarus-klep or klepper (clapper), a wooden rattle that he can use to call attention and beg with. During the 17th century the amount of lepers and plague victims reduced to such a state that the dolhuys was converted as a poorhouse for children and later in the 19th century a home for homeless people. The dolhuys continued to serve as such until 1998 when it was converted to a museum.The names of the regents are: Dirk Geesteranus (1628-?), Johannes van de Leye (?-?) and Maarten Vermeulen (1638-1701). Painting from 1667.

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