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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, (accessed September 24, 2017).


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Apr 24, 2014 Version
Jan 01, 1995 Version

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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


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
Frans Hals, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1989, not in catalogue.
Museums of the World: Homage to the Pushkin Museum Centenary, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1998, unnumbered catalogue.
Dutch and Flemish Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 2003, no catalogue.
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).
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.
Imperial Hermitage Museum. Livret de la Galérie Impériale de l’Ermitage de Saint Petersbourg. Saint Petersburg, 1838: 254, no. 773.

Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial, Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. Saint Petersburg, 1863: 165, no. 773.
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen. Munich, 1864: 172, no. 773.
Köhne, Baron Bernhard de. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 3 vols. 2nd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1870: 2:124, no. 773.
Bode, Wilhelm von. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883: 90, no. 131.
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 3rd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1895: 2:123, no. 773, repro.
Conway, William Martin. The Hermitage. London, 1896: no. 773, repro.
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1896: 38, repro.
Somov, Andrei Ivanovich. Ermitage Impérial: Catalogue de la Galérie des Tableaux. 2 vols. 4th ed. Saint Petersburg, 1901: 2:141, no. 773, repro.
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. London, 1902: 144.
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.
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 1(1906):640.
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.
Williamson, George Charles. "The Hermitage Collection at St. Petersburg." Connoisseur 19 (December 1907): 205-217.
Davies, Gerald S. Frans Hals. Reprint. London, 1908: 140.
Moes, Ernst Wilhelm. Frans Hals: sa vie et son oeuvre. Translated by J. De Bosschere. Brussels, 1909: 138.
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d’Oeuvre de la Galérie de Tableaux de l’Ermitage Impérial à St. Pétersbourg. London, 1909: xxvii, 142, repro.
Péladan, Joséphin. Frans Hals 1580(?)-1666. Paris, 1912: 89-90.
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.
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Moritz Julius Binder. Frans Hals: Sein Leben und seine Werke. 2 vols. Berlin, 1914: 2:15, no. 214, pl. 137.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals: des meisters Gemälde in 318 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 28. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 320, repro. 222.
Knackfuss, Hermann. Frans Hals. Reprint. Bielefeld, 1923: 46-48, repro.
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.
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 186, 223.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Frans Hals Paintings in America. Westport, Connecticut, 1936: no. 92, repro.
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: repro. opposite page 40, as Man with a Red Sash.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941: 95, no. 68, as Portrait of an Officer.
Trivas, Numa S. The Paintings of Frans Hals. New York, 1941: 49, 97, no. 74, repro.
National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 68, repro. 24, 240, as Portrait of an Officer.
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 76, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
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.
Reitlinger, Gerald. The Rise and Fall of Picture Prices 1760-1960. (Vol. 1 of The Economics of Taste). London, 1961: 23-24.
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.
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.
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 65, as Portrait of an Officer.
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.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 57, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
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.
Grimm, Claus .Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatolog. Berlin, 1972: 25, 100, 204, no. 99.
Montagni, E.C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 101-102, repro., no. 46.
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 170, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 268, no. 351, repro.
Montagni, E.C. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals. Translated by Simone Darses. Les classiques de l'art. Paris, 1976: no. 46, repro.
Alberts, Robert C. Benjamin West: a biography. Boston, 1978: 184, no. 6.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 268, no. 345, color repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 196, repro., as Portrait of an Officer.
Mittler, Gene A. Art in Focus. Peoria, 1986: 254-255, fig. 14.11.
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 308.
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: das Gesamtwerk. Stuttgart, 1989: no. 100, repro.
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. London, 1989: 284.
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: 67-68, 284, no. 100, repro.
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 91, 93, color repro.
Fiero, Gloria K. The Age of the Baroque and the European Enlightenment. The Humanist Tradition 4. 1st ed. [7th ed. 2015] Dubuque, Iowa, 1992: 48, 50 fig. 22.11.
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.
Egorova, K. S., and M. A. Bessonova. Museums of the World: Homage to the Pushkin Museum Centenary. Exh. cat. Pushkin Museum, Moscow, 1998: 168.
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.
Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated from Italian by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 167, color repro.
Il'in, Nikolas, and Natalia Semënova. Prodannye sokrovishcha Rossii [Sold Treasures of Russia]. Moscow, 2000: 148-149, repro.
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).
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.
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):308.
Jaques, Susan. The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia. New York, 2016: 397, 398, color fig.
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.

Related IconClass Terms
arm akimbo
fashion and clothing +burgher
revolution +Dutch Revolt
military service