Overview

Frans Hals was the preeminent portrait painter in Haarlem, the most important artistic center of Holland in the early part of the seventeenth century. He was famous for his uncanny ability to portray his subjects with relatively few bold brushstrokes, and often used informal poses to enliven his portraits.

This portrait of an unknown sitter bears Frans Hals’ monogram FH in the lower left. The sitter may have been a fellow artist: with his right hand covering the area of the heart, the man not only conveys his sincerity and passion but also proclaims his artistic sensibility.

The fluid brushstrokes defining individual strands of hair are consistent with Hals’ work from the end of the 1640s, a period in which hats with cylindrical crowns and upturned brims, such as the one shown here, were fashionable. Interestingly, this man’s hair was extended and the hat painted out sometime before 1673. In 1990–1991 National Gallery of Art conservators removed the overpaint of prior treatments that had lengthened the hair and hidden the hat, thereby restoring the portrait’s original appearance.

Inscription

lower left in monogram: FH

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Remi van Haanen [1812-1894], Vienna, by 1873.[1] (Mssrs. Lawrie & Co., London, by March 1898);[2] (Bourgeois Frères, Paris), in 1898; (Leo Nardus [1868-1955], Suresnes, France, and New York); sold 1898 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;[3] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1873
Gemälde alter Meister aus dem Wiener Privatbesitze, Österreichisches Museum für Künst und Industrie, Vienna, 1873, no. 38.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 32, repro.

Bibliography

1873
Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie. Gemälde alter Meister aus dem Wiener Privatbesitze. Exh. cat. Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, Vienna, 1873: 10, no. 38.
1883
Bode, Wilhelm von. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883: 89, no. 122.
1885
Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P. A. B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):no. 207, repro.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 3(1910):89, no. 311.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 3(1910): 88, no. 311.
1908
Martin, Wilhelm. "Notes on Some Pictures in American Private Collections." The Burlington Magazine 14 (October 1908): 59-60, pl. 2.
1909
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909: 33, no. 32, repro., 154, 161.
1910
Cox, Kenyon. "Art in America, Dutch Paintings in the Hudson-Fulton Exhibition II." The Burlington Magazine 16, no. 82 (January 1910): 245.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 128, no. 32, repro. 129.
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, no. 13, repro.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: His Life and Work. 2 vols. Translated by Maurice W. Brockwell. Berlin, 1914: 2: no. 191, pl. 120b.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: Sein Leben und seine Werke. 2 vols. Berlin, 1914: 2:59, 191, repro. 120b.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des meisters Gemälde in 318 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 320, 238, repro.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des Meisters Gemälde in 322 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Berlin, and Leipzig, 1923: 321, 251, repro.
1930
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 198, 223.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 80, repro.
1936
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Connecticut, 1936: no. 96, repro.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 5, no. 624.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 51, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963: 337, 311, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 66.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 58, repro.
1970
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. 3 vols. National Gallery of Art Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art. London, 1970–1974: 2(1970):no. 310, repro.; 3(1974):102-103, no. 198.
1972
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog. Berlin, 1972: 24, 28, 107, 205, no. 137, fig. 161.
1974
Montagni, E. C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 106, no. 187, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 170, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 268-269, no. 353, repro.
1976
Montagni, E. C. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals. Les classiques de l'art. Translated by Simone Darses. Paris, 1976: no. 187, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 268, no. 347, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 197, repro.
1989
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: das Gesamtwerk. Stuttgart, 1989: 194-195, 288, no.132, repro.
1989
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. London, 1989: no. 73, repro.
1990
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: 194-195, 288, no. 132, repro.
1995
Grassi, Marco. "Art and Alchemy." Art & Auction 17 (June 1995): 88–91; 122, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 85-88, color repro. 87.

Conservation Notes

The original support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed. Cusping is visible in the X-radiographs along the left, right, and top edges. Striations are visible from the brush used to apply the thin white ground. Paint is applied in opaque layers, thinly in the sketchy background, and with more body in the figure. Lively brushstrokes are applied wet-into-wet but left distinct and unblended. Losses are small and scattered, and moderate abrasion is present, particularly in the black hat and adjacent background.

Prior to 1883, when the painting appeared in the art market in Vienna, the background had been overpainted to cover up the hat, and the hair repainted in a longer style. The restoration of the painting in 1990 and 1991 removed the later repaints and exposed the original hat, hair, and background.[1] Although abraded, enough original paint remained to permit reconstruction of these elements.

 

[1] During this treatment the NGA Scientific Research department performed analysis of the pigments using cross-sections and polarized light microscopy (see report dated March 28, 1991, in NGA Conservation department files).

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