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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Frans Hals/Portrait of a Member of the Haarlem Civic Guard/c. 1636/1638,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/75 (accessed July 30, 2014).

 

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Overview

Starting in 1568, seven provinces of the Netherlands broke away in revolt against Spanish rule, initiating a war for independence that lasted until 1648. In the early years of the conflict the militias (civic guard companies) of Haarlem in particular put up a heroic fight. By Hals’ time the military front was sufficiently far to the south that the function of these militias had become more social than martial, which explains the presence in this portrait of the elegant lace collar over the iron breastplate and the lace cuffs. Each battalion was divided into three companies based on the colors of the rebel flag—orange, white, and blue; the civic guardsman here clearly was a member of one of the orange companies. Hals, member of the Saint George civic guard since 1612, made a number of large group portraits of the militia companies.

This portrait is one of only two known portraits by Hals of an individual guardsman. It has been dated at various periods of the artist’s career, but recent scholars have placed it at the end of the 1630s on the basis of comparisons with Hals’ civic guard painting Officers and Sergeants of the Saint George Civic Guard Company in the Frans Halsmuseum, which the artist executed about 1639. Hals portrayed himself in the left background among his fellow guardsmen, and is staring at the viewer. Hals’ facial features are remarkably similar to those of the man in this Portrait of a Member of the Haarlem Civic Guard, so much so that one wonders if this image is, in fact, a self-portrait.

Entry

With great bravura, this fashionably clad member of the Haarlem civic guard stands with arm akimbo, staring out at the viewer. His flamboyant character, evident in his stance but reinforced through his arched eyebrows and stylish mustache, beard, and long, flowing locks of hair, conveys the sense of pride the Dutch felt in their military prowess during the formative years of the republic. By the late 1630s, when Hals painted this image, the Dutch had clearly demonstrated their superiority over the Spanish forces that had attempted to stem the revolt against Spanish rule. The citizens of Haarlem, in particular, had proven themselves in the early years of the conflict when they refused to capitulate to the Spanish troops who had besieged the city. Thanks to the fortitude and resistance of the citizenry, when Haarlem finally surrendered in the summer of 1573, the northern forces had gained time to gather enough strength to effectively counter the Spanish threat. Hals, a member of the Saint George civic guard since 1612, made a number of large group portraits of the militia companies, most of which are in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. This painting is one of only two known portraits in Hals’ oeuvre of an individual soldier.[1] By Hals’ time, the military front was sufficiently far to the south that the function of these militias had become more social than martial, which explains the presence of the elegant lace collar and cuffs that embellish this man’s iron breastplate. The civic guards nevertheless remained mindful of their role in preserving the peace and harmony of their hometown. 

As Arnold Houbraken and countless others have remarked, Hals painted the members of the civic guard “so forcefully and naturally . . . that it is as if they would address the onlooker!”[2] Hals, whose broad yet agile brushwork could so effectively suggest the outward exuberance of the sitter, used a pose for the individual guardsman here that he favored throughout his career. Variations of it can be found in single portraits as early as about 1625 in the magnificent full-length Willem van Heythusysen (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)[3] and as late as the mid-1650s in the seated Portrait of a Man in the Hermitage.[4] Hals used virtually the same pose, but in reverse, in his portrait of the portly Claes Duyst van Voorhout, c. 1638 ([fig. 1]), which is datable to about the same time as the Portrait of a Member of the Haarlem Civic Guard.

The condition of the Washington picture is much better than has been suggested in past literature. Conservation treatment on the painting in 1991 revealed a vibrancy in the flesh tones and costume that had long been obscured by discolored varnish. The whites of the lace collar and cuffs, the sheen of the metal clasp on the officer’s cuirass, and the ocher and oranges of his jacket and sash are vividly rendered. Aside from the gray glazing that softens the area between the eyes, the face has not suffered abrasion as Slive thought,[5] nor has the figure been altered by extensive overpainting as Grimm believed.[6] Finally, the conservation treatment confirmed that the background landscape vista that Grimm called into question is Hals’ original concept. While this view onto a distant, evening landscape with its striking orange and blue palette is unusual for Hals, the character of the paint is totally consistent with the rest of the work.[7]

The rich blues in the landscape have in the past been thought to represent the sea, and thus the painting has at various times since the nineteenth century been interpreted as representing an admiral or naval officer.[8] The vista, however, is quite undefined other than the suggestions of trees in the foreground. The flat plain in the background could very well be land, particularly since no boats are visible. Nothing in the costume, moreover, indicates that the sitter is a naval officer, or, for that matter, an officer of any type. He is wearing a standard pikeman’s cuirass, such as was worn in Haarlem’s civic guard companies or in the army of the Dutch Republic.[9] Given Hals’ close ties to the Haarlem civic guard companies of Saint George and Saint Hadrian, the former possibility is the more likely.[10] Each militia battalion was divided into three companies that could be distinguished by the colors of the rebel flag—orange, white, and blue—and the vivid sash around the waist of this unidentified man indicates that he was a member of the orange company.[11] Outfitted as he is in a broad-brimmed black hat and fashionable lace collar and cuffs, he clearly has dressed for the painter’s brush and not for battle.

This portrait has been dated at various periods of Hals’ career, but recent scholars have placed it at the end of the 1630s on the basis of comparisons with the artist’s civic guard painting Officers and Sergeants of the Saint George Civic Guard Company in the Frans Hals Museum, which he executed in about 1639 [fig. 2].[12]Hals was a member of this company and portrayed himself, standing in the left background, staring at the viewer. His facial features are remarkably similar to those in this Portrait of a Member of the Haarlem Civic Guard, so much so that one wonders if this image is, in fact, a self-portrait.

Many stylistic associations exist between this portrait and Hals’ last civic guard group portrait. Not only are the tonalities of the ochers and oranges comparable, but so are the slashing diagonal strokes used to indicate the folds in the sleeve and sash. The style of the costume is similar, as well as that of the sitter’s hair, mustache, and beard. Nevertheless, the guardsman’s face is not as freely executed as those in the group portrait. The features are quite precisely delineated with firm strokes of the brush and modeled with crisp shadows. These stylistic characteristics share much in common with portraits from the mid-1630s, such as the Portrait of a Man, presumably Pieter Tjarck in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which Slive dates 1635/1638.[13] Thus it is probable that this work predates Hals’ 1639 civic guard group by a year or two.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Catherine II, empress of Russia [1729-1796], Saint Petersburg, by 1774; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg; sold March 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1989
Frans Hals, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1989, not in catalogue.
1998
Museums of the World: Homage to the Pushkin Museum Centenary, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1998, unnumbered catalogue.
2003
Dutch and Flemish Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 2003, no catalogue.

Bibliography

1773
Imperial Hermitage Museum [probably Ernst von Münnich, ed.] "Catalogue raisonné des tableaux qui se trouvent dans les Galeries, Sallons et Cabinets du Palais Impérial de S. Pétersbourg, commencé en 1773 et continué jusqu’en 1785.” 3 vols. Manuscript, Fund 1, Opis’ VI-A, delo 85, Hermitage Archives, Saint Petersburg,1773-1783 (vols. 1-2), 1785 (vol. 3).
1774
Imperial Hermitage Museum [probably Ernst von Münnich, ed.]. Catalogue des tableaux qui se trouvent dans les Cabinets du Palais Impérial à Saint-Pétersbourg. Based on the 1773 manuscript catalogue. Saint Petersburg, 1774: no. 269, as Portrait d'un officier.
1838
Imperial Hermitage Museum. Livret de la Galérie Impériale de l’Ermitage de Saint Petersbourg. Saint Petersburg, 1838: 254, no. 773.
1863
Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial, Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. Saint Petersburg, 1863: 165, no. 773.
1864
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen. Munich, 1864: 172, no. 773.
1870
Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 3 vols. 2nd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1870: 2:124, no. 773.
1883
Bode, Wilhelm von. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883: 90, no. 131.
1895
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 3rd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1895: 2:123, no. 773, repro.
1896
Conway, William Martin. The Hermitage. London, 1896: no. 773, repro.
1896
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1896: 38, repro.
1901
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 4th ed. Saint Petersburg, 1901: 2:141, no. 773, repro.
1902
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. London, 1902: 144.
1904
Bryan, Michael. Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, biographical and critical. 5 vols. Revised and expanded by George C. Williamson. New York and London, 1903-1905: 3(1904):10.
1906
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 1(1906):640.
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. 310.
1907
Williamson, George Charles. "The Hermitage Collection at St. Petersburg." Connoisseur 19 (December 1907): 205-217.
1908
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. Reprint. London, 1908: 140.
1909
Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Frans Hals: sa vie et son oeuvre. Translated by J. De Bosschere. Brussels, 1909: 138.
1909
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d’Oeuvre de la Galérie de Tableaux de l’Ermitage Impérial à St. Pétersbourg. London, 1909: xxvii, 142, repro.
1912
Péladan, Joséphin. Frans Hals 1580(?)-1666. Paris, 1912: 89-90.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: His Life and Work. 2 vols. Translated by Maurice W. Brockwell. Berlin, 1914: 2:15, no. 214, pl. 137.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: Sein Leben und seine Werke. 2 vols. Berlin, 1914: 2:15, no. 214, pl. 137.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des meisters Gemälde in 318 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 320, repro. 222.
1923
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Reprint. Bielefeld, 1923: 46-48, 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: 320, repro. 235.
1930
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 186, 223.
1936
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Connecticut, 1936: no. 92, repro.
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: repro. opposite page 40, as Man with a Red Sash.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941: 95, no. 68, as Portrait of an Officer.
1941
Trivas, Numa S. The Paintings of Frans Hals. New York, 1941: 49, 97, no. 74, repro.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 68, repro. 24, 240, as Portrait of an Officer.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 76, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1960
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 12, color repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1961
Reitlinger, Gerald. The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices 1760-1960. (Vol. 1 of The Economics of Taste). London, 1961: 23-24.
1962
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art. Translated. New York, 1962: 90, color repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 311, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 65, as Portrait of an Officer.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 218, color repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 57, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
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):57, 2(1970):no. 202, repro., 3(1974):67, no. 125.
1972
Grimm, Claus .Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog. Berlin, 1972: 25, 100, 204, no. 99.
1974
Montagni, E.C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 101-102, repro., no. 46.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 170, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 268, no. 351, repro.
1976
Montagni, E.C. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals. Translated by Simone Darses. Les classiques de l'art. Paris, 1976: no. 46, repro.
1978
Alberts, Robert C. Benjamin West: a biography. Boston, 1978: 184, no. 6.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 268, no. 345, color repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 196, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
1986
Mittler, Gene A. Art in Focus. Peoria, 1986: 254-255, fig. 14.11.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 308.
1989
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: das Gesamtwerk. Stuttgart, 1989: no. 100, repro.
1989
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. London, 1989: 284.
1990
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: 67-68, 284, no. 100, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 91, 93, color repro.
1992
Fiero, Gloria K. The Age of the Baroque and the European Enlightenment. The Humanist Tradition 4. Dubuque, 1992: 48, 50 fig. 22.11.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 72-76, color repro. 73.
1998
Egorova, K. S., and M. A. Bessonova. Museums of the World: Homage to the Pushkin Museum Centenary. Exh. cat. Pushkin Museum, Moscow, 1998: 168.
1998
Fiero, Gloria K. Faith, Reason and Power in the Early Modern World. The Humanistic Tradition 4. 3rd ed. New York, 1998: no. 22.11, repro.
1999
Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated from Italian by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 167, color repro.
2000
Il'in, Nikolas, and Natalia Semënova. Prodannye sokrovishcha Rossii [Sold Treasures of Russia]. Moscow, 2000: 148-149, repro.
2006
Biesboer, Pieter, and Neeltje Köhler, eds. Painting in Haarlem 1500-1850: The Collection of the Frans Hals Museum. Translated by Jennifer Kilian and Katy Kist. Ghent, 2006: 486-488, 607-608, no. 183, repro., no. 429 repro. (guardsman no. 12).
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, D.C., 2009: 99, 135 n. 62.
2011
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):308.

Technical Summary

The original support consists of a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, with part of the original tacking margin incorporated into the top edge. In a past restoration, the top, left, and right tacking margins were trimmed, and these edges were extended with 1.5-centimeter-wide fabric strips. The paint layer present on the extensions is neither original nor of recent application. The original fabric and extensions have been lined. Cusping is found along all edges of the original support, indicating that the present dimensions have not been greatly reduced.

Paint was applied over a smooth white ground in fluid pastes and thin washes, in unblended brushstrokes, dots, and dabs of low impasto. A red underlayer visible in some areas may be part of an overall or locally applied imprimatura. Colored glazes were used extensively in the drapery. Lining has emphasized the canvas weave and slightly flattened the paint texture. Apart from a small loss in the hat, losses are confined to the edges. The brown glazes of the face and hair and blue green paint of the landscape are moderately abraded, and the darks of the clothing slightly abraded. The painting was restored in 1991.

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Portrait of a Member of the Haarlem Civic Guard
  • [fig. 1] Frans Hals, Claes Duyst van Voorhout, c. 1638, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jules Bache Collection, 1949. Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY
    Compare Image
  • [fig. 2] Frans Hals, Officers and Sergeants of the Saint George Civic Guard Company, c. 1639, oil on canvas, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. Photo: Margareta Svensson
    Compare Image
  • [1]

    The other portrait, Portrait of an Officer, is in the Museum of Art, São Paulo, Brazil. See Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974).

  • [2]

    Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen. 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:92; a translation by Michael Hoyle is in Seymore Slive, ed., Frans Hals (Washington, DC, 1989), 18.

  • [3]

    Seymore Slive, ed., Frans Hals (Washington, DC, 1989), no. 17, ill.

  • [4]

    Seymore Slive, ed., Frans Hals (Washington, DC, 1989), no. 73, ill.

  • [5]

    Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974), 3:67, no. 125.

  • [6]

    Claus Grimm, Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog (Berlin, 1972), 25, no. 99.

  • [7]

    Hals included landscape vistas in only two other portraits of single figures: Isaac Abrahamsz Massa, 1626 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), and Portrait of a Man in a Slouch Hat, c. 1660–1666 (Hessisches Landesmuseum, Kassel).

  • [8]

    The first association of the figure with a naval officer was in the 1863 catalog of the Hermitage, 165, no. 773, where it was termed “Portrait d’un amiral.” Most subsequent references continue this designation. Although Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974), 3:67, no. 125, gave the painting the neutral title Portrait of a Man Wearing a Cuirass; he wrote: “The view of the sea seen through the opening in the wall suggests that the model may have been a naval officer.”

  • [9]

    For a comparable pikeman’s cuirass, see M. Carasso-Kok and J. Levy-van Halm, eds., Schutters in Holland: Kracht en zenuwen van de stad (Haarlem, 1988), 218, no. 35, repro.

  • [10]

    Not only did Hals paint the Saint George civic guard company three times and the Saint Hadrian civic guard company twice, he was a member of the former from 1612 to 1624. See Irene van Thiel-Stroman in Seymore Slive, ed., Frans Hals (Washington, DC, 1989), 375–376, doc. 11.

  • [11]

    Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974), 1:41, explains that the civic guards were divided into three companies “designated ‘orange’ (oranje), ‘white’ (witte) and ‘blue’ (blauwe), the colors of the newly established country.”

  • [12]

    The early catalogs of the Hermitage proposed that this painting was a pendant to the Portrait of a Man of the 1650s. This association might have been made if Catherine the Great purchased them together, which seems possible, for in the catalog of 1774 they are listed sequentially as nos. 268 and 269. No information is known about their earlier provenance, despite the statement in National Gallery of Art, Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1941), 94, no. 68, that the Portrait of a Soldier was acquired by Catherine the Great from the Walpole Collection. The Hals painting Catherine acquired from that great collection was the Gallery’s Portrait of a Young Man (1937.1.71). Wilhelm von Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei (Braunschweig, 1883), 90, no. 131, was the first to note that these works belonged to different periods of Hals’ career. He dated them 1635 and 1660 respectively. Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Frans Hals: Des meisters Gemlde, Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28 (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921), 222, dated the Portrait of a Soldier around 1646–1647. Numa S. Trivas, The Paintings of Frans Hals (New York, 1941), 49, no. 74, was the first to date the painting about 1639. He was followed in this dating by Claus Grimm, Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog (Berlin, 1972), 25, no. 99, and Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974), 3:67, no. 125.

  • [13]

    Seymour Slive, ed., Frans Hals, 3 vols. (London, 1970–1974) 3:59, no. 108.