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Lot 5. Frans Hals and Studio (Antwerp 1582/83 - 1666 Haarlem), Portrait of a man, three-quarter-length, wearing black with a white collar, oil on canvas; 78.9 x 66.1 cm.; 31 x 26 in. Lot sold: 604,800 GBP (Estimate: 600,000 - 800,000 GBP). © 2022 Sotheby's.

Provenance: Admiral Sir Montague Edward Browning (1863–1947), London;
Sir Hugh P. Lane (1875–1915), London;
With Arthur Ruck, London;
With John Levy Galleries, New York;
From whom acquired by Mrs Benjamin F. Jones Jr. (d. 1941), Sewickley Heights, Pennsylvania;
Her posthumous sale, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 4-5 December 1941, lot 29;
With Schneider Gabriel, New York;
Ira S. French, New York;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 24 May 1963, lot 25, to Acquavella;
With Acquavella Galleries, New York;
Mr and Mrs Smith W. Bagley (1935–2010), Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by 1967;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 26 November 1971, lot 80, for 11,000 Guineas, where acquired.

Literature: W.R. Valentiner, Frans Hals: des Meisters Gemälde (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart 1921, no. 65, reproduced (as Hals, circa 1627–30);
W.R. Valentiner, Frans Hals: des Meisters Gemälde (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart 1923, p. 318, no. 189, reproduced (as Hals, circa 1640; as possibly signed with monogram, right);
W.R. Valentiner, Frans Hals Paintings in America, Connecticut 1936, reproduced pl. 35 (as Hals, circa 1630);
C. Grimm, L'opera completa di Frans Hals, Milan 1974, p. 110, no. 219, reproduced (listed under 'Other attributed works');
S. Slive, Studies in the History of European Art, Frans Hals, London 1974, vol. 3, p. 146, no. D.50, reproduced fig. 171 (under 'Doubtful and wrongly attributed paintings');
To be included in Professor Claus Grimm's forthcoming catalogue raisonné, to be published online in collaboration with the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in the Hague, as no. A3-16, reproduced (as Frans Hals and Assistant).

ExhibitedRaleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina collects: a loan exhibition of North Carolina owned art objects, 10 – 29 October 1967, no. 18.


© 2022 Sotheby's.

Note: Frans Hals' unique and innovative approach to the portraiture of his male contemporaries was recently explored and celebrated in the exhibition at The Wallace Collection, London: ‘Frans Hals: The Male Portrait’, tracing the development of these works through the artist's long career, from 1610 to 1666.1 The dating of this painting, last seen at auction over 50 years ago, has varied from suggestions of the late 1620s to around 1640, but Professor Claus Grimm, the foremost authority on the artist, now dates the work to circa 1634–35. This was the period in which Hals was operating at the height of his powers, demand for his portraits from the newly wealthy citizens of his native city of Haarlem was ever increasing, and his reputation as the leading portraitist of the age had been firmly established (shortly to be challenged by Rembrandt). Indeed, in a letter to Mrs Benjamin F. Jones Jr. (see Provenance), dated 29 August 1930, Dr. Wilhelm R. Valentiner (see Literature) writes: 'The painting is in my opinion one of the best I know of the period (about 1630) at the time when Frans Hals was more highly appreciated than at any other period in his lifetime.'


Frans Hals, The Laughing Cavalier, 1624. © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London.

 This likeness fits well into the scope of portraits Hals produced in the mid-1630s, when his brushwork became ever more confident and economical, as can be seen in the highlight along the sitter's nose, and the rapid strokes that define the man's moustache, eyebrows and shading around his eyes, comparable to those found in the commanding Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman of 1634 (The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio).2 The pose of the man is also characteristic of Hals' portraits from the mid-1630s, such as those of the unidentified portrait of 1633 (National Gallery, London),3 and the Portrait of Nicolaes Hasselaer (1593–1635), probably of 1634 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam),4 which are likewise distinguished by the brightness of the light source, and a generally fresh and sunny tonality.


Frans Hals (Dutch, c. 1581-1666), Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman, 1634, oil on canvas, Framed: 139 x 109 x 5.5 cm (54 11/16 x 42 7/8 x 2 1/8 in.); Unframed: 117 x 87 cm (46 1/16 x 34 1/4 in.). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1999.173 © The Cleveland Museum of Art.


Frans Hals, Portrait of a man in his thirties, 1633. Oil on canvas, 64.8 x 50.2 cm. National Gallery, London. © National Gallery


Frans Hals, Portrait of a Man, possibly Nicolaes Hasselaer (1593–1635), c. 1635, oil on canvas, h 79.5cm × w 66.5cm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Gift if Jonkheer J.S.R. van de Poll, Arnhem. © Rijksmuseum

Professor Grimm, who is preparing the updated catalogue raisonné of Hals' work, has revised his former opinion of the painting, and is unequivocal in his endorsement of the portrait as by Hals himself along with a member of his studio. Grimm notes that the head of the sitter is 'absolutely typical for Hals', executed with his distinctive bravura brushwork, characteristic shading of the eyelids, and an animated expression with eyes that immediately engage the viewer, unlike any others found in portraits of the 17th century. Indeed Grimm recalls Sir Joseph Hotung telling him that the reason he bought the portrait was precisely 'because he was fascinated by the picture's spontaneous expression.'

Given the very delicate application of paint, and since the perimeters of the face are executed more summarily with only a few accents of light and shadow, Grimm concludes that the face here remains in an intermediate stage of painting, without the impasto accents that can be observed in particular in the aforementioned portrait of Hasselaer, for example. He is of the opinion that, though the tassel at the man's neck and the rendering of his hand are also of the quality associated with Hals, the rest of the costume would appear to be the work of a single assistant.5 An exceptional feature of this painting is the faint outline of underdrawing along the sitter's right arm – a trace of Hals' preparatory working technique rarely apparent in his other portraits. It is also possible to discern the reserve that has been left around the sitter's head.6

Note on provenance

This painting was formerly in the collection of Sir Hugh Lane, Irish art dealer and collector, who was appointed Director of the National Gallery of Ireland shortly before his untimely death during the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. Lane established Dublin's Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, and he bequeathed his own paintings 'to found a Collection of Modern Continental Art in London.' This bequest comprises almost forty French Impressionist paintings, which are shared between the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the National Gallery in London, including Edouard Manet's Music in the Tuileries Gardens and Renoir's The Umbrellas.

1 22 September 2021 – 30 January 2022: https://www.wallacecollection.org/art/exhibitions-displays/frans-hals-the-male-portrait/
2 https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1999.173
It seems probable that Seymour Slive, who appears only to have known the painting through a photograph, based his opinion of the painting on the basis of this rendering of the costume.
6 Although Grimm believes the painting to have been cut slightly at the lower edge, scalloping along this – and all the margins – would appear to confirm this design as the original composition.

Sotheby'sHOTUNG | 何東 The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung | Part II: Evening. London, 8 December 2022