Peeter Baltens: Saint Martin’s Day Kermis (1540 - 1598)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Flemish artist Peeter Baltens (1527-1584). This piece is dedicated to a 'kermis', an annual religious event to honour the patron saint of a town or city and usually involved feasting, dancing and sports of all kinds. In this case it is dedicated to
the christian saint Martin of Tours who was a Roman soldier who gave the half of his cloak to a beggar. In a dream the beggar revealed himself as Jesus. On this painting the saint is depicted on the right, cutting his cloak in two. In the center is a large group of people who are gathered around a large wine barrel - the feast of saint Martin is on 11 November, after the grape harvest, so the people are probably tasting the new wine of the year. The Dutch word "kermis" is derived from 'kerk' (church) and 'mis' (mass). The red and white on the wine barrel refers to the Dutch city of Utrecht, a city of which saint Martin is a patronsaint. The exact meaning of this painting is unknown. Painting from 1540-1598.