Overview

The strength and vitality of the people who helped establish the new Dutch Republic are nowhere better captured than in the work of Frans Hals, who was the preeminent portrait painter in Haarlem, the most important artistic center of Holland in the early part of the seventeenth century. This unidentified sitter—one of Hals’ most impressive portraits—was sixty years old when the painting was made, according to the artist’s inscription. Hals conveys her strong personality through the twinkle in her eyes, the smile on her lips, the firm grip of her hand on the chair, and the boldness of her silhouette against the light gray-brown background. The small Bible or prayer book she holds implies a pious character, and her clothing is conservative for the period. The velvet-trimmed brocade jacket, satin skirt, and lace cuffs and cap are nonetheless of the highest quality and remind us that Haarlem’s wealth derived from the processing of and trade in textiles. The woman’s elaborate linen ruff collar, starched and supported by concealed wires, was gradually going out of style at this time.

Hals’ portraits were often commissioned as pendants in which a husband and wife face each other, with the man on the left and the woman on the right. It is quite possible that a similarly sized Portrait of an Elderly Man standing behind a chair, currently in the Frick Collection, New York, is the pendant to this superb and engaging work.

Inscription

center left: AETAT SVAE 60 / ANo 1633

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Jurriaans;[1] (his sale, Van de Schley, Roos, and De Vries, Amsterdam, 28 August 1817, no. 20); Cornelius Sebille Roos [1754-1820], Amsterdam. Charlotte-Camille, Comtesse Boucher de la Rupelle [née de Tascher, d. 1911], Paris; sold by 1905 to (Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris); James Simon [1851-1932], Berlin, by 1906; (Abraham Preyer, The Hague);[2] purchased 12 June 1919 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[3] held jointly with (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London), June to November 1919);[4] (Duveen Brothers, Inc.); sold June 1920 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1905
Catalogue of 100 Paintings by Old Masters, Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1905, no. 13.
1906
Ausstellung von Werken alter Kunst, Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, Berlin, 1906, no. 49.
1939
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 179.
1989
Frans Hals, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, 1989-1990, no. 45, color repro.as Portrait of a Seated Woman.

Bibliography

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):108, no. 371.
1909
Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Frans Hals: sa vie et son oeuvre. Translated by J. de Bosschere. Brussels, 1909: 108, no. 186.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: His Life and Work. 2 vols. Translated by Maurice W. Brockwell. Berlin, 1914: 1:43, no. 138, pl. 79.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: Sein Leben und seine Werke. 2 vols. Berlin, 1914: 1:40, no. 138, pl. 79.
1914
Sedelmeyer, Charles. Hundred masterpieces. A selection from the pictures by old masters which form or have formed part of the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1914: 30, no.13, repro.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des meisters Gemälde in 318 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 313, 103, 109, 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: 313, 109, repro.
1930
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 114.
1936
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Connecticut, 1936: no. 41, repro.
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 40.
1939
McCall, George Henry. Masterpieces of art: Catalogue of European paintings and sculpture from 1300-1800. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Exh. cat. New York World's Fair, New York, 1939: 86, no. 179.
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 191, repro.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 94, no. 67.
1941
Trivas, Numa S. The Paintings of Frans Hals. London and New York, 1941: 39, no. 41, pl. 59.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 67, repro. 25, 240.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949: 74, repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1957: pl. 101.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963: 311, repro.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 65.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 57, repro.
1970
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. 3 vols. National Gallery of Art Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art. London, 1970–1974: 1(1970):115; 2(1970):pls. 135, 138; 3(1974):42, 50, no. 82.
1972
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog. Berlin, 1972: 90, 202, no. 60, 89, repro.
1974
Montagni, E. C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 97, no. 83, 96, pl. 31.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 168, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 268, no. 350, repro.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 68, pl. 53.
1981
Baard, H. P. Frans Hals. New York, 1981: 57, fig. 60.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 268, no. 344, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Jr., Arthur K. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 10, repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 196, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 308.
1989
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. London, 1989: 262-263, no. 45, color repro.
1990
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: color repro. 168, 183, 279, no. 63.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 67.
1992
Crijns, Marianne, and Rieke van Leeuwen. Huidziekten in de Beeldende Kunst. Nieuwegein, 1992: 84, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 123, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 69-72, color repro. 71.
2001
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 50-51, color repro.
2002
Weller, Dennis P. Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Currier Museum of Art, Manchester. Raleigh, 2002: 110-111, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 186-187, no. 146, color repro.
2005
Harris, Ann Sutherland. Seventeenth-century Art and Architecture. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2005: 322, repro.
2012
Atkins, Christopher D.M. The Signature Style of Frans Hals: Painting, Subjectivity, and the Market in Early Modernity. Amsterdam, 2012: 226.

Conservation Notes

The original support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined with the original tacking margins trimmed. Part of the painting surface has been turned over all four stretcher edges to form a new tacking margin, reducing the height by at least 3 centimeters and the width by at least 2.5 centimeters (see text). The X-radiograph shows only faint cusping along the top and left edges. Above the book at the juncture of the dress and arm is a large repaired hole and adjacent vertical tear.

Paint is applied over a thin, cream-tan ground as a fluid paste, with impasto in thicker passages such as the brocade and book. The face and black dress are freely painted with wet-into-wet handling, and brushstrokes in the skirt and hands are left unblended. The black brocade pattern and final touches in the lace, ruff, and cap, all added in a final painting stage, create an impression of precision and restraint. Adjustments to the silhouette of the black drapery are visible to the naked eye. A cluster of small losses is found in the upper right corner, along with scattered small losses in the background and drapery, and a linear diagonal loss that passes through the proper left thumb. In 2008 the painting was treated to remove discolored varnish and overpaint. [1]

 

[1] During this treatment the painting was analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department using microscopic examination of cross-sections (see notes dated August 21, 2008, in NGA Conservation department files).

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