Frans Hals, Regents of the St

Frans Hals, Regents of the St. Elizabeth Hospital of Haarlem, 1641, oil on canvas, 153 x 252 cm (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem).

HAARLEM.- During Frans Hals: Work in Progress, from 13 June to 27 September in the Frans Hals Museum, visitors will be able to watch the restoration of Hals’s world-famous Regentesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse as it happens. The museum’s restorers will be working on this painting in a workshop in one of the galleries under the public gaze. This ‘work in progress’ is part of an exhibition about the restoration of the three unique regent portraits that Frans Hals painted. Visitors will be able to watch the progress of this massive restoration project, learn about the restoration history and the art-historical context of the paintings and share in a number of extraordinary discoveries.

Regent Portraits 
The Frans Hals Museum is home to the largest number of paintings by Frans Hals in the world, and in this exhibition will be concentrating on a unique part of this collection—the three regent portraits. 

These works are some of the most important and influential of the master’s paintings: the Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital (c. 1641), the Regents of the Old Men’s Almshouse (c. 1664) and the Regentesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse (c. 1664). Regents and regentesses were the administrators of charitable institutions and these three regent works are the only group portraits of boards of governors that Hals painted. These masterpieces are being researched and restored in the Frans Hals Museum’s restoration workshop between 2014 and 2016. It is more than a century since such a thorough and extensive restoration of these works was carried out. 

Restoration and Research 
The exhibition will present three stages: before, during and after restoration. At the start of the presentation visitors will see the completed restoration of the Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, on display for the first time to the public without its layers of dirty varnish and old retouches. The restoration of the Regentesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse is ongoing and will be continued in the workshop. The restoration of the Regents of the Old Men’s Almshouse is still in the preparatory stage: research is underway but restoration work has yet to be started. It is already clear that this painting has also darkened considerably. Old drawings of it give an impression of the original colours. 

The presentation will also look at the research into Hals’s portraits of regents, the restoration history of the paintings and their original appearance. Several questions and dilemmas that arise from the research, the restoration and preservation of old paintings will be examined. What did these paintings look like in the past? What has changed? How was Hals able to paint so expressively and with such assurance? What kind of materials did he use and how did he build up his paintings? What can we do to preserve such valuable paintings for the future? Frans Hals’s incredible painting technique and the original destinations of the paintings in the various regents’ rooms will also be explored. 

Frans Hals, Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, during restoration, c

Frans Hals, Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, during restoration, c. 1641.

‘Work in Progress’ 
The three regent portraits by Hals and the group portrait of the regentesses of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital by Johannes Verspronck will be on display during Frans Hals: Work in Progress. The exhibition will also include a reconstruction of the wall chart depicted in the Regents of the St Elisabeth’s Hospital, drawings by Wybrand Hendriks and Cornelis van Noorde, a number of historical books and records and an old box of historical restoration materials. Audio-visual aids will provide further explanation about the restorations and the research. 

The restoration and exhibition is made possible by the financial support of the BankGiro Loterij, the Friends of the Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem, the Mondriaan Fonds, the Elisabeth van Thüringenfonds, the Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds and Haarlem City Council.

Simultaneously in De Hallen Haarlem 
From 6 June to 30 August O MUZE!, a major exhibition in De Hallen Haarlem, will present the men and women who were important sources of inspiration for Dutch art from 1850 onwards. People whose bodies, personalities or words inspired art. There will be paintings, photographic works, films and three-dimensional works of art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, along with remarkable contemporary examples. From Kees van Dongen, Isaac Israels, Jan Sluijters and Carel Willink to Gijs Frieling, Pavèl van Houten and Manon de Boer.