Portrait of an unknown woman (1643) by Frans Hals

Portrait of an unknown woman - Frans Hals - 1643

Artwork Information

TitlePortrait of an unknown woman
ArtistFrans Hals
Dimensions122.4 x 97.5 cm
Art MovementBaroque
Current LocationYale University Art Gallery (Yale University), New Haven, CT, US

About Portrait of an unknown woman

The artwork titled “Portrait of an unknown woman” is an oil on canvas painting by the renowned artist Frans Hals, dated 1643. This portrait is characteristic of the Baroque art movement and measures 122.4 by 97.5 cm. Frans Hals, known for his lively and spirited portraiture, created this piece during a period where portraiture was a significant genre in European art. The artwork is part of the collection at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, United States.

Upon examining the artwork, one is immediately struck by the presence of the sitter, an elderly woman depicted with a dignified poise. She appears to be seated, dressed in dark, sumptuous garments that suggest a position of status or affluence. The textures of her clothing, particularly the fur trimming that peeks from beneath her outer garment, are rendered with tactile precision. Her visage is captured with a remarkable sense of realism, showing the nuanced creases and lines of age, hinting at a life lived with experience and possibly wisdom. The woman’s expression is serene yet alert, with a slight suggestion of a smile that invites viewers to ponder her thoughts and disposition.

Hals has paid particular attention to the adornment of the sitter, highlighting the stark white, starched collar that frames her face and contrasts sharply with her dark attire. The cap that covers her hair also suggests maturity and respectability, common of the fashion among women of her age during the period. The painting contains an inscription that possibly indicates the age of the woman at the time of the portrait—”ÆTAT SVÆ 72″—which would mean she was 72 years old.

The backdrop of the portrait is subdued, allowing the focus to remain on the subject. The use of chiaroscuro, a technique commonly employed in Baroque art, is evident in the illumination of the woman’s face against the darker background, creating depth and emphasizing her features. The psychological depth portrayed through her gaze and the delicate, nuanced treatment of her flesh tones exemplify Hals’ mastery as a portraitist and the elegance of the Baroque era’s approach to individual likenesses.

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