Five 'new' Frans Hals paintings?
Is the world richer to the tune of five paintings by Frans Hals?
The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem in the Netherlands is declining to confirm the news, preferring to await research confirming the claim. However, one of the pictures, from the Dutch national collection, is definitely by the old Dutch master, Frans Hals.
Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
"Yes, it's rather spectacular news" is the circumspect response of Eric Domela Nieuwenhuis to the news that a total of five hitherto unknown paintings by Frans Hals have been discovered. He is the curator of antique art at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN). "It's news," says the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery's chief curator, Quentin Buvelot, "but I'll have to see them first before I call it extraordinary."
The painter Frans Hals (ca 1583-1666) is on of the greatest Dutch masters of the Golden Age. He achieved world fame with his huge lively canvasses of citizen militias, but his moving portraits of ordinary people are also much loved. There is uncertainty about how many pictures he produced, with estimates varying from as many as 220, to as ‘few' as 150. Many pictures are 'attributed' to him by the art world.
The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem is launching a major exhibition of works from the Dutch Golden Age, highlighting the leading cultural position occupied by the city during the period. It is the farewell exhibition of the museum's curator of antique art, Pieter Biesboer. Many top pieces will be on show, including 20 paintings by Frans Hals. It is said that they will include five 'new' works, but the museum is refusing to confirm this.
Four of the canvasses are from private collections and the fifth, Portrait of a man with a skull-cap, languished for years in the ICN national collection archives. Mr Domela Nieuwenhuis confirms that the canvas is by Frans Hals:
"For a long time, we thought the painting was by an associate of Frans Hals or by one of his followers. However, about two years ago, someone brought the quality of the picture to my attention, and we called on other experts for help. Gradually, the consensus emerged that it had indeed been painted by the master."
When Mr Biesboer from the Frans Hals Museum and restorer Martin Bijl saw the canvas for themselves, they were agreeably surprised. They have now had 18 months in which to study the work, and Mr Bijl has worked on its restoration.