This is a mature work by Frans Hals, painted circa 1644-5, a dating with which both Seymour Slive and Claus Grimm concur. Slive compares the treatment of the head and collar and the overall tonality with Hals’ undated Portrait of a Man in Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, which he in turn relates to works dated 1643 and 1644, and dates it between 1643 and 1645.
The sitter so far is unknown, and hitherto no pendant has been identified, but it has from time to time been suggested that this could be a self-portrait by Hals, on the basis of similarities with the copy of a lost self-portrait of circa 1650 in Indianapolis. The suggestion had first been made when the portrait was at the Frans Hals Museum in 1964-5. The abstracted object which the sitter holds in his left hand has been variously identified as a glove, a swatch of cloth, or a sheaf of grain (thus attributes of a merchant or brewer), and even as a bouquet of tail-feathers from a grouse. However, Grimm now believes it to be a pair of gloves.
This portrait was rediscovered in the 1960s, before being sold at auction in 1965 for the then enormous sum of £73,500.
The circumstances of its re-discovery were related by the Director of the Frans Hals Museum, H.P. Baard in his article in Oud Holland, and eloquently summarized by Seymour Slive in his Frans Hals catalogue raisonné. When acquired by the Hotinovs in 1963, it was overpainted. Baard noted that its frame dated from the 1860s, and he thought the repainting had probably been done at the same time or around 1870, perhaps to give it a more finished appearance, in accordance with the taste of the time. The Hotinovs took it to a restorer, who removed the overpaint, and, presumably because he had recognised Hals’ authorship, repainted it again to disguise it, and then tried to pry this painting away from the Hotinovs. They did not sell it to him, but took it to another restorer, who removed the previous restorers’ repaint.
They then took it to Baard, director of the Frans Hals Museum, who immediately recognised it as a Frans Hals, painted circa 1643-5. The discovery of such a monumental painting was received with an almost ecstatic disbelief. The moments of such incredible discoveries are rare! And soon an X-ray examination showed that the material was old and after professional restoration in the studio of the Frans Hals Museum there was no doubt whatsoever about Hals ‘authenticity.
The painting was restored at the Frans Hals Museum in 1964-5, and relined and restored again at the Kimbell in 1969, and it was noted then that “there was little evidence of abrasion; there are a few scattered losses, plus a small L-shaped tear in the right centre”. Moreover, the general recognition of the authorship was finally shared by Professor Seymour Slive of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. USA, whose voice as an authority on Frans Hals carries great weight. As Seymour Slive noted, “the removal of the repaint has not damaged the painted surface”.
The portrait has been dated to about 1645. Also Claus Grimm, an authority on the subject of Frans Hals, agrees with this date. And placed among similar portraits at the Kansas City Museum and the National Gallery of Edinburgh, this “Hotinov’Hals” definitely holds its own.
There is still some speculation whether we are dealing with a self-portrait , however Grimm and others deny the possibility because of essential differences between this portrait and the known self-portrait in the group-portrait of the Civic Guards of 1639 in the Frans Hals Museum, and the more official small portrait of about 1650 in the Collection Clowes, Indianapolis, USA.
So far the identity of the sitter has not yet been established. Undoubtedly the attribute which the man is holding in his hand can play an important part in the identification. Perhaps it is a glove or a swatch of cloth. It has also been suggested that it is a bundle of hops or grouse tail feathers. If it is the former the hops probably refer to the sitter’s activities as a brewer.
In ‘Oud Holland’ nr. 4 from 1965, the former director of the Frans Hals Museum Mr. H.P. Baard wrote: “even if at the moment we must sustain our hopes that through some lucky find in old records the identity of the person portrayed by Hals may be released from his anonymity, the main thing is that there can now be complete satisfaction about a surprising discovery through which Hals ‘oeuvre has been enriched by a work of great quality”.
– L. Hofman, Zutphen, Holland, by around 1930;
– By whom sold to M.C. van Mourik, Huize Midwijk, Vorden in around 1930;
– By marriage to his widow M.C. van Mourik-Spoor, Huize Midwijk, Vorden;
– By whom sold in 1962 to Th. J. van Beukering, Arnhem;
– By whom entered for sale at Arnhem, J.C. Derksen, 19 July 1963, but sold outside of the auction;
– Whence acquired, on 19 July 1963, by Mr and Mrs Leonid Hotinov, Muiderberg, for 40 florins and 25 stuivers;
– By whom sold to Mrs Gisela Kemperdick, Kaster, Amt Bedburg near Cologne;
– By whom sold, London, Christie’s, 26 November 1965, lot 70, for £73,500;
– Where acquired by Walter Goetz for the Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth;
– Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas (inv. AP 65.2);
– By whom de-accessioned by private sale in 1993;
– Private collection, England;
– With Johnny van Haeften, London, from whom acquired by a
– a private Dutch collector, in 2004;
– Sotheby’s, London 2010;
– with Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam 2011;
– private collection, The Netherlands.
– Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, on loan, April – May 1965.
– TEFAF ‘The European Fine Art Fair’, Maastricht, 18 – 27 March 2011;
– ‘Uit de kunst!, 100 jaar Nederlandse kunsthandel’, Het Loo Palace, Apeldoorn, november 2011;
– ‘Artist IQ 500 jaar Kunst’, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, 17 Jan – 1 Feb 2015.
– G.C. Vieten, “Ehrenrettung für Frans Hals,” in Die Weltkunst, 34, 1964, no. 23, 15 November, p. 990;
– G.C. Vieten, “Der unbekannte von Haarlem,” in Die Weltkunst, 35, 1965, no. 10, 15 May, p. 403, reproduced;
– H.P. Baard, “Wedergeboorte en lotgevallen van de “Hotinov-Hals”‘, in Oud Holland, 80, 1965, pp. 211-19;
– S. Slive, Frans Hals, vol. II, London 1970, reproduced fig. 241, vol. III, London 1974, pp. 80-81, no. 158, reproduced fig. 37 (before restoration);
– C. Grimm, Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse, Gesamtkatalog, Berlin 1972, pp. 105 & 204, no. 123, reproduced figs. 135 & 141;
– Museum Catalogue, Kimbell Art Museum. Catalogue of the Collection, Fort Worth 1972, pp. 55-56, reproduced;
– C. Grimm & E.C. Montagni, L’opera completa di Frans Hals, Milan 1974, p. 104, no. 160, reproduced p. 103;
– Museum Catalogue, Kimbell Art Museum. Handbook of the Collection, Fort Worth 1981, p. 58, reproduced;
– P.C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America, Grand Rapids & Kampen 1986, pp. 91-2;
– In Pursuit of Quality. The Kimbell Art Museum. An Illustrated History of the Art and Architecture, Fort Worth 1987, p. 212, reproduced;
– C. Grimm, Frans Hals. Das Gesamtwerk, Stuttgart & Zürich 1989, p. 281, no. 124, reproduced;
– C. Grimm, Frans Hals. The Complete Work, New York 1990, p. 287, no. 124, reproduced.