Frans Hals, ‘Portrait of an old woman’, Christie's Old Masters

Supporting the attribution of this head of an old woman to Hals, Klaus Grimm noted that it has been cut down, likely from a half- or three-quarter-length composition (see Grimm 1989, op. cit., pp. 26,28). In its current format, the portrait nevertheless reveals the distinctive visible brushstrokes and highly individualized features that distinguished Hals amongst his contemporaries. E.C. Montagni compares this painting to the Portrait of Maritge Voogt Claesdr. (1577-1644), Wife of Pieter Jacobsz. Olycan, burgomaster of Haarlem in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. SK-C-139), which depicts another older woman wearing a white headpiece and large ruff, her head angled slightly so as to produce a shadow on her proper left temple and a two-tone area of shade across the back of her collar. These same elements are visible in the present work, creating an interplay of light and dark in an almost geometric pattern that serves to complement and frame the looser handling and variegated skin tone of the face.

Boston, Copley Hall, Portraits, 1896, no. 163.
New York, Schaeffer Galleries, Frans Hals Exhibition, 9-30 November 1937, no. 11.

Dutch Lady: Boston Now Knows She Belongs to Frans Hals', Newsweek, no. 21, 22 November 1937, p. 37, illustrated.

C.C. Cunningham, 'A Recently Discovered Portrait by Frans Hals', Burlington Magazine, LXXII, 1938, pp. 87-88.

W.G. Constable, Museum of Fine Arts Boston Catalogue, 1955, p. 31, no. 21.1449, as not by Hals.

S. Slive, Frans Hals, London, 1974, III, p. 154, no. D72, fig. 193, as not by Hals.

E.C. Montagni, L'opera completa di Frans Hals, Milan, 1974, pp. 97-98, no. 96, illustrated.

Meesters der Schilderkunst: Frans Hals, Rotterdam, 1976, translated from Italian, pp. 98-99, no. 96, illustrated.

A.R. Murphy, European Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1985, p. 128, illustrated, as by a follower of Hals.

C. Grimm, Frans Hals: Das Gesamtwerk, Stuttgart and Zürich, 1989, pp. 26-28, 275, no. 64, fig. 15.

C. Grimm, Frans Hals: The Complete Work, New York, 1990, translated from German, pp. 26-28, 279, no. 64, fig. 15, illustrated.


Acquired by William Sturgis Bigelow, Boston, in the late 1880s, by whom presented to

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. 21.1449.

Private collection, United States. Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 10 October 1990, lot 199, as 'Circle of Frans Hals'.

Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 3 December 2008, lot 24, as 'Frans Hals'.

About Frans Hals

Frans Hals is best known for his dynamic portraits of wealthy citizens of Haarlem, a Dutch city where prosperity derived from brewing beer and producing luxury fabrics. Rejecting the static poses of traditional portraiture, Hals conveys in his subjects an impression of spontaneity and individuality. In Portrait of a Man (ca. 1635-38), the sitter seems to lean against the oval frame as if looking out a window. Next to Rembrandt and Vermeer, Hals is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest Dutch painters of the “Golden Age,” his bold brushwork inspiring Realist and Impressionist painters.

Dutch, 1582-1666, Antwerp, Belgium, based in Haarlem, Netherlands