Frans Hals I
Antwerp 1582/ 1583 - Haarlem 1666
oil on canvas
115 x 87 cm
Inventory number 674
Antwerp-born artist Frans Hals was especially famous for his portraiture. Of all the splendid portraits that he produced, this painting of Stephanus Geraerdts is perhaps the best. The Haarlem alderman and councillor is recognisable by his coat of arms in the background. His relaxed posture makes the work rather unique, because Dutch regents tended to have themselves immortalised in formal poses. Their expression was usually very serious, whereas Geraerdts seems to be smiling at someone to his right. Hals captured this smile in just a few effective brushstrokes. He probably began by sketching his model's expression directly onto the canvas. The attire of the alderman is also rendered in splendid fashion: the quick, straight brushstrokes create the illusion of a deep-black robe with gold embroidery. The sleeve and the outstretched hand are moreover among the most virtuoso examples of Baroque painting.
A separated pair
Stephanus Geraerdts's smile is in fact directed at his wife Isabella Coymans, who slyly offers him a rose. Originally, the two portraits formed a pair, but they were separated in 1886. Today, he adorns the portrait gallery of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, while she is in a private collection.