In addition, dendro-chronological dating of the panel was also undertaken and has established that the youngest tree ring was formed in 1610 and that the panel was made from the same tree as Hals’ signed Portrait of Hendrik Swalmius in The Detroit Institute of Arts (dated 1639, 27 by 20 cm.).3
In a written expertise dated 11 January 2017, Biesboer notes that the working method in this painting is entirely consistent with that of Hals. The artist began with a rough sketch to outline the figure, applying a lighter layer of paint in the background. One can see some of these sketch lines showing through the paint of the background at the right and left of the cloak in the present portrait. While the paint of the sketch was still wet, further definition of the head and hand was applied, after which the first stage of the clothes was painted. In the last phase, Hals finished the painting with highlights and deep shadows thereby accentuating the expression of the face and the shape of the figure. Also characteristic of Hals are the deep ivory black shadow accents in the cloak, contours of the figure, chin, mouth, eyes, and hair. Furthermore, Hals’ characteristic brushwork with double ridges can be seen throughout, especially in the impasto passages in the white of the collar and ivory black of the cloak. The red pigments used to outline the sitter’s cheek and nose are similar to those found in another late Portrait of a Man in the Van Otterloo collection.4 The present work can also be compared to the Portrait of a Man in the Mauristhuis, The Hague (also circa 1660), of almost identical dimensions.5
Biesboer concludes that the attribution of this small-scale portrait to Hals is thoroughly convincing, not only from a technical analysis, but also for the remarkable expressivity of the sitter’s face, so typical of works by this master. In addition, Norbert Middelkoop and Martin Bijl both fully endorse the attribution of this portrait to Frans Hals.
This portrait was formerly in the collection of P.A.B. Widener, whose heir Joseph was a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
1. See S. Slive, Fran Hals, 2nd edition, London 2014, plates 208-210, 212 and 214.
2. Restoration was undertaken by Martin Bijl in 2016.
3. Dendro-chronology report by Prof. Dr. Peter Klein, dated 2/4/2015.
4. See S. Slive, Frans Hals, 2nd edition, London 2014, p. 355, cat. no. 209, reproduced.
5. Inv. no. 928, oil on panel, 31.1 by 25.5 cm.
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