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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Artwork of the day

Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen, Frans Hals, 1622. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
This painting by Frans Hals is also a marriage portrait like the ones discussed yesterday. Essentially it belongs to the same tradition, the same civilisation (Dutch, 17th century) and probably served similar purposes. It is at the same time however essentially different. This is just one painting representing the happy couple showing clear signs of affection, posing relaxed against an equally happy garden landscape. This seems to be a relationship between equal partners and a happy union. The couple is presented full-length, the woman lying on her husband's arm. Behind them a vine relies on the tree, another symbol of the solidity of their union and the mutual fidelity underlying it. There is no way for us to know whether the happiness portrayed in this painting was real. Hals was undoubtedly a great master of portraiture going for innovating paintings, however documentary and literary sources show that in the 17th century affectionate relationships were highly praised and sought for in a marriage.

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