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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Frans Hals (Antwerp c.1580-Haarlem 1666)

Portrait of a Man Dated 1630

RCIN 405349

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In this portrait the figure seems to burst out of the lower edge of the canvas. The sense of a strong physical presence is due to the spiral effect created by the jutting elbow on the viewer’s left and the hand holding a pair of gloves that extends from the tautened cloth on the right. Gloves held in the hand, as opposed to being worn, were regarded as a gesture of friendship, which in this case is being offered to the viewer.

Here Hals paints impulsively and fluently, creating a highly-textured surface in the treatment of the clothes and fabric, which is in marked contrast with the rather thinly painted facial features. Hals succeeds in making the impermanent seem permanent and the mobile to be immobile. This illusion is the equivalent of a freeze frame in cinematic technique, an effect that was admired in France during the nineteenth century by artists such as Edouard Manet and Vincent van Gogh.