One of the most venerated artists working in this vein was
. Dutch by birth and a lifelong resident of Haarlem, Hals embraced Baroque devices as well as realist details like disheveled hair or relaxed poses. But it was his daring looseness of brushwork that gave portraits like A Militiaman Holding a Berkemeyer, Known as the ‘Merry Drinker’
(ca. 1628–30) and The Laughing Cavalier
(1624) unprecedented freshness and authenticity.
In fact, only one artist is regarded as Hals’s equal in group portraiture: Rembrandt van Rijn, the artist whose name has become synonymous with Holland’s Golden Age. His masterpiece, Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (1642), nicknamed Night Watch in the 19th century, testifies to the transformative power of visionary painting by elevating what might have been a simple group portrait to the solemn authority of a history painting. Though the atmosphere of works like A Woman bathing in a Stream (1654), possibly depicting Rembrandt’s lover Hendrickje Stoffels, conjure a bewitching atmosphere of both darkness and golden light, it was the sense of personality the artist left behind through his many virtuosic self-portraits that answer, at least in part, for Rembrandt’s enduring fame.