This portrait of a man (whose age is given as 34 in the inscription) is striking for its compositional simplicity and tonal unity - both aspects indicative of the artist’s stylistic progression during the 1630s. The figure seems to burst out of the lower edge of the canvas. The sense of a strong physical presence is due to the spiral effect created by the jutting elbow on the viewer’s left and the hand holding a pair of gloves that extends from the tautened cloth on the right. Gloves held in the hand, as opposed to being worn, are regarded as a gesture of friendship, which in this case is being offered to the viewer.
It is evident that Hals painted very fast, impulsively and fluently, varying the texture of the raised paint surface so that the treatment of the clothes and fabric is in marked contrast with the rather thinly painted facial features. Colour accents are at this stage reduced in value. Hals succeeds in making the impermanent seem permanent and the mobile to be immobile. This illusion is the equivalent of a freeze frame in cinematic technique. Given such visual pyrotechnics and such technical dexterity that increased with the years, it is no wonder that he was so admired in France during the nineteenth century by artists such as Edouard Manet and Vincent van Gogh.
Inscribed upper right near the head: 'AETAT SVAE 36 / AN. 1630'
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002
ProvenanceFirst recorded in the Royal Collection in 1795 (Geo. III, Buck Ho.)
- People involved
- Physical properties
Portrait of a gentleman