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.

Glancing straight at the viewer, this portly gentleman rests his elbow on the back of his chair. Hals’ earliest known use of this pose dates to 1626, and he continued to use it throughout his career. (See, for example, the National Gallery of Art’s portrait of Willem Coymans, 1645.) As is characteristic of Hals, the sitter’s face is more firmly modeled and detailed than are his costume and accessories, which are rendered in broader, more abstract brushstrokes. Hals has made the man’s face come to life by adding rapidly applied accents over the broad flesh tones. A few wavy strokes depict the lion’s-head finial of the chair, and an emphatic crisscross pattern describes the man’s flat lace collar.

Just above the sitter’s hand, Hals signed the work with his initials—not just once, but twice: FHFH. Multiple interpretations have been proposed for this unique double monogram, including the possibility that Hals here portrayed his son Frans Hals the Younger (1618–1669).[1] Although Hals’ son would have been the appropriate age for this portrait, no other supporting evidence for this identification exists, so the identity of the sitter and the reason for the double monogram remain mysteries.

 

 

[1] Petr Petrovich Semenoff, Études sur l’histoire de la peinture néerlandaise, 2 vols. (Saint Petersburg, 1885), 1:254, and Andrei Ivanovich Somof, Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la galerie des tableaux, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (Saint Petersburg, 1901), 2:139–140, no. 770.

Inscription

center right with double monogram: FHFH

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Sir Robert Walpole, 1st earl of Orford [1676-1745], Houghton Hall, Norfolk, by 1736;[1] by inheritance to his son, Robert Walpole, 2nd earl of Orford [1700-1751], Houghton Hall; by inheritance to his son, George Walpole, 3rd earl of Orford [1730-1791], Houghton Hall; sold 1779 through Count Aleksei Semonovich Musin-Pushkin, Russian ambassador to England, to Catherine II, empress of Russia [1729-1796], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg; sold February 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 1 May 1937 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1996
Houghton Hall: The Prime Minister, The Empress and The Heritage, Castle Museum Norwich; Kenwood House, London, 1996-1997, no. 12, repro., as Portrait of a Seated Man.

Bibliography

1736
Walpole, Horace.A Catalogue of the Right Honorable Sir Robert Walpole’s Collection of Pictures. Unsigned autograph manuscript. Pierpont Morgan Library. The Morgan Library and Museum, PML 7586. New York, 1736: 33-34.
1747
Walpole, Horace. Aedes Walpolianae or A Description of the Collection of Pictures at Houghton Hall in Norfolk. London, 1747: 40.
1809
Gilpin, William. Observations on Several Parts of the Counties of Cambridge, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. London, 1809: 69.
1838
Imperial Hermitage Museum. Livret de la Galerie Impériale de l’Ermitage de Saint Petersbourg. Saint Petersburg, 1838: 254, no. 26, as Self-Portrait.
1863
Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial, Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. Saint Petersburg, 1863: 165, no. 770, as Portrait of Frans Hals.
1864
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Die Gemäldesammlung in her kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen. Munich, 1864: 172, no. 770.
1870
Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. 3 vols. 2nd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1870: 2:123, no. 770.
1883
Bode, Wilhelm von. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883: 90, 101, no. 128.
1885
Semenoff, Petr Petrovich. Études sur l’histoire de la peinture néerlandaise. 2 vols. Saint Petersburg, 1885: 1:254, as Portrait of Frans Hals the Younger.
1895
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 3rd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1895: 2:122-123, no. 770, repro.
1896
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1896: 52, repro.
1901
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galerie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 4th ed. Saint Petersburg, 1901: 2:139-140, no. 770, repro.
1902
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. London, 1902: 144, no. 770.
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):88.
1908
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. Reprint. London, 1908: 139, no. 770.
1909
Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Frans Hals: sa vie et son oeuvre. Translated by J. de Bosschere. Brussels, 1909: 108, no. 180 or 182.
1909
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d’Oeuvre de la Galerie de Tableaux de l’Ermitage Impérial à St. Pétersbourg. London, 1909: 145, repro.
1912
Péladan, Joséphin. Frans Hals 1580(?)-1666. Paris, 1912: 89-90, repro. opposite 162.
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. 213, pl. 136.
1914
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: Sein Leben und seine Werke. 2 vols. Berlin, 1914: 2:62, no. 213, pl. 136.
1918
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Die Meisterwerke der Gemälde-Galerie in der Ermitage zu St. Petersburg. Edited by Georg Korczewski. 2nd ed. Munich, 1918: 145, repro.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des meisters Gemälde in 318 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 320, no. 219, repro.
1923
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Reprint. Bielefeld, 1923: 61, 64, 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, 234, repro.
1923
Weiner, Peter Paul von. Meisterwerke der Gemäldesammlung in der Eremitage zu Petrograd. Revised ed. Munich, 1923: 117, repro.
1930
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 186.
1936
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Connecticut, 1936: no. 91, repro.
1941
National Gallery of Art. Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941: 95-96, no. 71.
1941
Trivas, Numa S. The Paintings of Frans Hals. New York, 1941: 55, no. 92, repro. no. 123.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 71, repro. 24, 240.
1946
Gratama, Gerrit David. Frans Hals. The Hague, 1946: 98, repro.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 78, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963: 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: 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: 1(1970):52, 160-161, 193; 2(1970):fig. 256; 3(1974):86-87, fig. 60 (monogram).
1972
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog. Berlin, 1972: 107, 205, no. 134, fig. 150.
1974
Montagni, E. C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 105, no. 171, 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, no. 352, repro.
1976
Gerson, Horst. "The Frans Hals Catalogue." The Burlington Magazine 118 (June 1976): 422-424.
1976
Montagni, E. C. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals. Les classiques de l'art. Translated by Simone Darses. Paris, 1976: no. 171, repro.
1981
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Jan Vermeer. New York, 1981: 14-15, fig. 6.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 268, no. 346, color repro.
1985
Jackson-Stops, Gervase. The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New Haven, 1985: 324.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 197, repro.
1988
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Jan Vermeer. Masters of Art. 2nd rev. ed. New York, 1988: 100, fig. 6.
1990
Broos, Ben P. J., ed. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 391.
1990
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: 241-242, 257, fig. 105a, 288, no. 129, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 93, color repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 83-85, color repro. 84.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Vermeer and the Art of Painting. New Haven, 1995: 123, fig. 86.
1996
Moore, Andrew W. Houghton Hall: the Prime Minister, the Empress and the Heritage. Exh. cat. Norwich Castle Museum; Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood. London, 1996: 95, fig. 12, repro.
2000
Il'in, Nikolas, and Natalia Semënova. Prodannye sokrovishcha Rossii [Sold Treasures of Russia]. Moscow, 2000: 157, repro.
2002
Moore, Andrew, and Larissa Dukelskaya. A Capital Collection: Houghton Hall and The Hermitage. Exh. cat. Somerset House, London. New Haven and London, 2002: 249, repro.
2003
Moore, Andrew. "Sir Robert Walpole: A Prime Minister Collects Dutch and Flemish Art." In Dutch and Flemish artists in Britain, 1550-1800. Edited by Juliette Roding. Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 13. Leiden, 2003: 293-294, repro.
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, D.C., 2009: repro. xii, 90, 103 n. 45, 135 n. 62.
2011
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):307.

Conservation Notes

The original support is a plain-woven fabric composed of heavy threads irregularly spun with numerous slubs, loose ends, and weave faults. It has been lined with most of the original tacking margins retained. Pressure upon lining has caused an emphasis of the coarse canvas texture and flattening of impasto. The support was laced onto a temporary strainer for priming. Remnants of the thick laces remain along the left and right edges. Cusping patterns also suggest that the primed fabric was re-laced to the strainer for painting before attachment to a stretcher. The support is sound, aside from a small hole to the right of the head.

A warm tan granular ground layer is visible between broad brushstrokes of paint, which was applied in thin layers worked rapidly wet-into-wet and modeled with sharp, unblended brushstrokes. The background was applied first, with a reserve left for the face, which was painted next, followed by the clothing. The hair was worked over the face to define its precise contours.

Scattered small losses are found overall, particularly along the edges. The bottom edge is ragged and damaged. Abrasion is slight. The painting underwent conservation treatment in 2007 to remove discolored varnish and inpainting.

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