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Frans Hals, Portrait of a Man in his Thirties

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Man in his Thirties
Artist Frans Hals
Artist dates 1582/3 - 1666
Date made 1633
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 64.8 × 50.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Miss Emily Jane Wood at the wish of her uncle, Decimus Burton, 1888
Inventory number NG1251
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of a Man in his Thirties
Frans Hals

An unknown sitter leans slightly backwards. It’s an unconventional pose, but one which gives a strong impression of immediacy and informality: he seems to have pushed back his chair and turned towards us. The sense of spontaneity is enhanced by the way Hals has manipulated our gaze. His concern was to suggest rather than define. The billowing ruff is depicted not with polished precision but with a combination of short darts of the brush, with a few delicate touches to evoke its transparency as it rumples up around the sitter’s cheek and chin.

But Hals did use detail where it counts. The upward flick of the sitter’s moustache, the four precise white highlights that glisten on his lower lip, and the strands of flattened hair that seem to stick to his forehead – as though he has just taken off his hat – are all crucial touches that help to bring his face to life.

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