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Frans Hals

A Portrait of a Woman holding a Pair of Gloves

Frans Hals

Inscribed: ÆTAT.SVÆ 36./ANo 1637.
On canvas, 36 ½ x 26 ½ ins. (93 x 67 cm)

One of a pair, see: A Portrait of a Man holding a Pair of Gloves

CS0309

Provenance

Comte de Thiènnes, Kasteel Rumbeke, Belgium, acquired in the 19th century
His granddaughter, Comtesse de Limburg-Stirum, Warmond, The Netherlands
M. E. van Gelder, Château Zeecrabbe, Uccle, Belgium, by 1911
Sir William van Horne, Montreal, by 1912
Miss Adaline van Horne, by 1936
Gifted to Mrs. William van Horne, 14 June 1944 (i)
Wildenstein and Co., New York
From whom acquired by Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, March 1973
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 8 December 1986, lots 52 and 53 (as property of an American Collector)
With Robert Noortman Gallery, London and Maastricht
From whom acquired by a Belgian private collector, in 1996
Anon. sale, Sothebys, New York, 29 January 2009, lots 45 & 46 (unsold)
Private Collection, Belgium, 2016

Literature

C. Hofstede de Groot, “Twee nieuw aan het licht gekomen portretten van Frans Hals”, in Onze Kunst, vol. XX, 1911, pp. 172-73 (reprinted in French as “Deux portraits nouvellement attribués à Frans Hals”, in L’Art Flamand & Hollandais, Revue Mensuelle Illustrée, vol. 17, 1912, pp. 1-2, reproduced).
Editor’s note, “A propos de deux portraits attribués à Frans Hals”, in L’Art Flamand & Hollandais, Revue Mensuelle Illustrée, vol. 20, 1913, p. 120.
W. von Bode and M. J. Binder, Frans Hals: sein Leben und seine Werke, Berlin 1914, vol. II, no. 162, reproduced.
W. R. Valentiner, Frans Hals.  Des Meisters Gemälde (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart and Berlin 1921, no. 155 and p. 316, reproduced (in the 2nd edition of 1923, it appears as no. 60). 
W. Drost, Barockmalerie in den germanischen Ländern, Potsdam 1926, pp. 139-140.
F. Dülberg, Frans Hals.  Ein Leben und ein Werk, Stuttgart 1930, p. 158.
W. R. Valentiner, Frans Hals Paintings in America, Westport, Conn. 1936, no. 60.
G. D. Gratama, Frans Hals, The Hague 1943, p. 56, no. 68, reproduced.
R. H. Hubbard, European Paintings in Canadian Collections.  Earlier Schools.  Toronto 1956, pp. 81 & 151, reproduced, pl. 38.
S. Slive, Frans Hals, London and New York, 1970-74, vol. III, p. 60, nos. 109 & 110, reproduced vol. II, pls. 178 & 179.
C. Grimm, Frans Hals.  Entwicklung.  Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatalog, Berlin 1972, pp. 97, 98, 203, 215, 216, nos. 86 & 87 (and in letters to the former owner of 16 May and 11 September 1973 in which he considers the pictures to be the finest works of the period 1637/38 and the surface of the paintings “untouched and brilliant”).
C. Grimm & E. C. Montagni, L’opera completa di Frans Hals, Milan 1974, pp. 99-100, nos. 118 & 119, reproduced.
“Side by Side at the Fogg”, in the Harvard Gazette, 29 February 1980, p. 3, reproduced.
C. Grimm, Frans Hals: Das Gesamtwerk, Stuttgart and Zürich, 1989, pp. 139, 140, 143, pls. 39a & 39b, reproduced, p. 278, nos. 87 & 88.
C. Grimm, Frans Hals, The Complete Work, New York 1990, pp. 139, 140, 143, pls. 39a & 39b, reproduced, p. 282, nos. 87 & 88. 

Exhibited

Montreal, Art Association of Montreal, Inaugural Loan Exhibition of Paintings, December 1912, no. 66
Montreal, Art Association of Montreal, A Selection from the Collection of Paintings of the Late Sir William van Horne, K.C.M.G., 16 October – 5 November 1933, no. 30
Montreal, Art Association of Montreal, Loan Exhibition of Great Paintings: Five Centuries of Dutch Art, 9 March to 9 April, 1944, no. 34
On loan to and exhibited at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1973-79
On loan to and exhibited at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1979-86

Essay

Next to Rembrandt, Frans Hals was unquestionably the greatest portraitist of the Dutch Golden Age.  He was born in Antwerp, but his family left the city shortly after it fell to the Spanish in 1585 and emigrated to the Northern Netherlands.  They settled in Haarlem, where Frans became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in 1610.  He received many commissions for group portraits of officers and members of militia companies, hospitals and charities.  He also painted individual portraits of members of Haarlem society from the regent, merchant and professional classes.  During the course of his long career, he rarely left his adopted city.

Hals is remembered as the artist who reinvigorated Dutch portraiture with a new force and naturalism.  With his bravura technique and seemingly spontaneous compositions, he swept aside old portrait conventions and introduced a new informality.  Hals, like no other painter of his time, was capable of bringing his sitters to life. 

In this splendid pair of portraits, a handsome-looking couple is portrayed.  The man, aged thirty-seven, is depicted standing, his body turned slightly towards his wife, and his gaze directed towards the viewer.  Dressed conservatively in black, with a crisp white ruff, his broad frame is almost entirely enveloped by a voluminous cloak that wraps around his body and passes under his right arm. His right hand is pressed to his breast, while his left hand grips a pair of gloves.  His wife, of one year younger, stands almost square to the viewer, her left arm resting easily by her side, and a pair of gloves in her right hand.  She wears a black vlieger (a sleeveless overgown traditionally worn by married women), a borst (a bodice, or stomacher), and a separate skirt.  The only embellishments to her plain outfit are narrow white cuffs, a ruff and a double white cambric cap. 

Despite the austerity of their costumes, the sitters display a remarkable warmth and directness.  Hals, with his inimitable technique and uncanny ability to portray his subjects’ natural liveliness, has captured the self-assurance, vigour and humanity of this good-looking fellow and his ruddy-cheeked spouse. In all probability, the portraits were commissioned to mark the couple’s marriage, since they conform to the conventional format for life-size pendants of married couples of the period: in accordance with the laws of heraldry, the man occupies the traditional place of honour on the right, or dexter side of his wife, while she takes her place to his left, or sinister side.  Certain other motifs and gestures support this notion, such as the eloquent gesture of the man’s hand held to his heart, a universally recognised symbol that speaks of his love for his bride, and the pairs of gloves that both of them hold, which are very likely the ones that they would have exchanged with one another as part of the ceremony surrounding the signing of the betrothal contract. 

Like many of the sitters in Hals’s portraits, the identities of this thirty-seven-year-old man and his wife of one year younger have been lost in the mists of time. There are no coats of arms, nor any reference to an occupation to guide us.  Neither does the nineteenth-century provenance provide any clues.  However, the simplicity of their unadorned black costumes has lead to the assumption that they were Mennonites, who, in accordance with their religious convictions, shunned ostentation in all aspects of life.  A comparison of their costumes with the virtually identical outfits worn by the Mennonites Lucas de Clercq and his wife Feyntje van Steenkiste  in Hals’s 1635 portraits of them (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) (ii) supports this supposition.  It also tallies with what we know about Hals’s clientele, many of whom were drawn from Haarlem’s wealthy merchant classes.  Most of the cloth, linen and silk merchants in the city were Mennonites, and many, like Hals himself, were Flemish émigrés who had arrived in Haarlem after 1585.  During the flowering of the textile industry in Haarlem in the first half of the seventeenth century many members of the Mennonite community prospered and became extremely rich.  Unable to serve in government or the militia, on account of their religious convictions, they nevertheless formed a strong social group in the city, and were often related to each other or linked by marriage. 

When Hals painted these portraits in 1637, he was at the peak of his popularity.  In the decade between 1630 and 1640, he received a steady stream of portrait commissions and enjoyed the patronage of some of Haarlem’s wealthiest burghers.  During this period, a shift begins to take place in Hals’s style.  His works acquire a greater unity and simplicity and, at the same time, the bright colours and the very free brushwork of the 1620s are replaced by more monochrome effects and a feeling of restraint.  Evidence of these changes can be seen here in the simple, bold outlines of the figures, seen against a grey background, and the very limited palette.  Although Hals is renowned for his very loose technique, his style here is quite refined, especially in the firm modelling of the faces and hands and in the details of the costumes.  His rendering of the starched white ruffs and the woman’s cap, for example, is a small masterpiece of controlled brushwork, while in other areas he has allowed his brush greater freedom.  The sheen of light on the black costumes is suggested with great economy of means in subtle gradations of tone from the deepest black to silvery grey: a few summary strokes describe the pair of grey gloves.  It is not hard to see what Van Gogh had in mind when he wrote “that Devil Hals has no less than 27 blacks on his palette”’. (iii)  Thanks to the superb condition of these two paintings, we can fully appreciate the virtuosity of Hals’s technique.  As Slive said, they are “outstanding, superlative works by Hals, in a nearly miraculous state of preservation” (iv). 

In his lifetime, Hals’s individual style was greatly praised.  His original technique and, above all, his ability to endow his portraits with a lifelike quality impressed his contemporaries.  Theodorus Schrevelius, whose portrait Hals painted in 1617, said of Hals that “by his extraordinary manner of painting, which is uniquely his, he virtually surpasses everyone.  His paintings are imbued with such force and vitality that he seems to defy nature herself with his brush.  … his portraits … are painted in such a way that they seem to breathe and live”(v).  And writing in 1661 in his Gulden Cabinet, Cornelis de Bie described him as “miraculous excellent at painting portraits … which are rough and bold, nimbly touched and well-ordered.  They are pleasing when seen from afar, seeming to lack nothing but life itself” (vi). However, in the century following his death, his loose style of painting was not to the taste of contemporary critics and he fell out of favour. Only in the nineteenth century, with the rise of Realism and, later, Impressionism, was his work reappraised and he came to be rightly recognised as a forerunner of modern painting.  Since that time his reputation has only continued to grow.

BIOGRAPHY

Born in Antwerp in 1582 or 1583, Frans was the son of Franchois Hals, a cloth-dresser from Mechelen, and Adriana van Geertenryck.  A second son, Joost, was born in Antwerp in 1584 or 1585.  Shortly after Antwerp fell to the Spanish in August 1585, the family emigrated to the Northern Netherlands.  The first evidence of their presence in Haarlem was on 19 March 1591, when Frans’s younger brother Dirck was baptised in the city’s Reformed Church.  Frans lived in Haarlem for the rest of his life.  There is no certainty regarding Frans’s artistic education: according to the anonymous biographer of the art theorist and painter Karel van Mander, Frans was his pupil, but van Mander himself, who left Haarlem in 1603, made no mention of it in his Schilder-boeck of 1604.  Both of Frans’s older brothers also became painters: Joost, about whom very little is known, was buried in Haarlem in 1626, but Dirck became an accomplished genre painter.  Frans joined the Guild of St. Luke in 1610, and the following year dated his earliest work, the Portrait of Jacobus Zaffias, Archdeacon of the diocese of Haarlem (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem).  From 1612 to 1624 Frans served as a musketeer in the St. George Civic Guard, to which his brother Dirck also belonged from 1618 to 1624.  In 1616, he was registered as a ‘beminnaer’, or friend, of ‘De Wijngaardraken’ (Vine Tendrils), a local chamber of rhetoric. 

Around 1610, Frans married Anneke Harmensdr., the Protestant daughter of a Haarlem bleacher, but the marriage was short lived.  Anneke died in 1615, leaving Frans with two young children.  On 12 February 1617, Frans married his second wife, Lysbeth Reyniersdr., the daughter of a local glass-maker.  The couple had eleven children, four of whom – Frans the Younger, Reynier, Claes and Jan – also became painters.  The couple moved house often within Haarlem, always living in rented accommodation.  Despite his many portrait commissions, Frans was beset with financial problems throughout his life.  In 1644, he became a warden of the Guild of St. Luke.  In 1661, in view of his advanced age, he was exempted from paying his annual contribution to the guild.  In 1662, he petitioned the city for financial assistance, and in February 1664, he was awarded a life pension of 200 guilders a year.  In addition, he received three cartloads of peat and his rent was paid.  Frans was buried in the choir of St. Bavo’s Church in Haarlem on 1 September 1666.  His wife survived him by many years. 

Three artists who are known to have worked in Hals’s studio are Philips Wouwerman, Pieter van Roestraeten and Vincent Laurensz. Van der Vinne, and it can safely be assumed that his own sons did so as well.  According to Arnold Houbraken, writing in 1718, he also trained Adriaen Brouwer, Dirck van Delen and Adriaen van Ostade. 

P.M.



i According to a manuscript note in the 1944 exhibition catalogue at the Art Association of Montreal.  This would have been the wife of Sir William’s grandson. 
ii Frans Hals, Portrait of Lucas de Clerq, on canvas, 126.6 x 93 cm, & Portrait of Feyntje van Steenkiste, 1635, on canvas, 123 x 93 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. SK-C-556 & 557, on loan from the City of Amsterdam.
iii Quoted by Seymour Slive, Dutch Painting 1600-1800, 1995 edition, p. 52. 
iv See literature: “Side by Side at the Fogg”, (Harvard Gazette). 
v Theodorus Schrevelius, Harlemias ofte, om beter te seggen, de eerste stichtinghe der stad Haarlem, Haarlem,
  1648, p. 383.
vi Quoted by Seymour Slive in Dutch Painting 1600-1800, New Haven and London, p. 36. 


Frans Hals

Antwerp 1582/3 - 1666 Haarlem

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