The woman in Frans Hals’ portrait wears a modest black garment, a white cap with a subtle decorative band, and glinting earrings. The slight asymmetry of the large white kerchief tied around her shoulders brings a hint of movement to the bust-length portrait. She smiles tentatively at the viewer. This open and engaging depiction of the sitter contrasts to contemporary portraits by Rembrandt which often focused on contemplation and introspection, such as can be seen in his Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels and Portrait of Margaretha de Geer, Wife of Jacob Trip.
Painted when Hals was in his 60s, 'Portrait of a Young Woman' exemplifies his late style. When viewed up close, the painted image dissolves into a busy network of energetic brushstrokes which often juxtapose, rather than blend, colours. For example, the white highlights on and above the bow which ties the sitter’s kerchief are executed with quick, deft flicks of a paintbrush. Take a step back however, and the vibrant brushstrokes come together to form a likeness of the sitter, letting an air of understated gentleness shine through. This is felt in the woman’s calm and quiet demeanour, her simple attire, the play of soft light, and delicate details such as the tiny glinting pearl atop the headdress.