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Frans Hals, Portrait of a Middle-Aged Woman with Hands Folded

Key facts
Full title Portrait of a Middle-Aged Woman with Hands Folded
Artist Frans Hals
Artist dates 1582/3 - 1666
Date made about 1635-40
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 61.4 × 47 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought (Lewis Fund), 1876
Inventory number NG1021
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of a Middle-Aged Woman with Hands Folded
Frans Hals

The sitter looms out of this painting in a rather imposing way, filling much more of the picture space than do the figures in most of Hals’s portraits. However, since it was first made, the picture seems to have been cut down at the sides and the bottom, amplifying the sense of the sitter’s size relative to the framing of the portrait. The impression we get today may be different to Hals’s original design.

But Hals was clearly always concerned with emphasising the sitter’s rather solid appearance. By setting her hands in her lap and her forearms at right angles in front of her body, he has created a wide base for her triangular form. And within that triangle, he has focused on broad, sweeping curves – the roundness of her shoulders, the circular white ruff and the swell of her double chin. We don’t know the identity of this apparently composed and collected woman, but she must surely be a citizen of Haarlem, the town where Hals lived and worked for most of his professional life.

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