A Frans Hals portrait banned for export from France

Frans Hals (1581/85-1666)
Portrait of a Man
Oil on panel
France, Private collection
Photo : C2RMF

8/12/08 — National Treasures — Paris — The Journal Officiel of last 29 October announced the decision to reject the request for an export certificate for Portrait of a Man by Frans Hals (ill.). The statement specifies that this painting “belongs to a restricted group of works painted by Hals at the end of his life, around 1650-1660, of which there are known to be three other comparable examples, representing bust portraits in small format with close-up centring [1].” Totally unpublished and of an amazing quality, this panel with an unknown model bears a monogram and is in perfect condition ; there does not seem to have been any previous restoration. It belongs to the artist’s last manner, that found in the Regents of the Hospice for Elders (1664, Frans Hals Museum), characterized by a limited range of colors and a more intense psychological gravity, influenced by Rembrandt. Art historians have compared the rapid strokes to those of Velazquez or Goya and see them as an example for many other painters, from Fragonard to Manet and Van Gogh.

French museums do not own many Hals works (Dijon, Amiens). The Musée Jacquemart-André also holds a canvas from the last period. The Louvre only has three : the Bohemian Woman, the Portrait of Paulus van Beresteyn [2], and the Jester with Lute acquired from the Rothschild collection in 1984 [3].

As regards national treasures, a fundraising drive was launched last 7 November to acquire two pairs of chairs stamped by Louis Delanois (1731-1792), in sculpted and gilt wood executed in 1792, for Versailles. According to the Journal Officiel, “These two pairs of chairs described as national treasures, for the first, and a work of major patrimonial interest for the other, constitute a remarkable example of the production of Louis Delanois, one of the greatest cabinetmakers of the 18th century, and reflect the transition towards the Louis XVI style while still under the reign of Louis XV. The furniture pieces belonging to Mme du Barry are rare, and these chairs would enable Versailles to complete an ensemble for which the château already owns several other pieces.” The price is of 1,600,000€

Finally, let us remind our readers that the Louvre is currently trying to acquire at least two major paintings which are listed as national treasures : the Portrait of Count Molé by Ingres (see news item of 21/5/06 only in french) and Saint Peter’s Denial by the Le Nain Brothers (see news item of 14/8/08).

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 8 décembre 2008


[1] 1. Notably the Portrait of a Man (Willem Croes ?) at the Alte Pinacothek in Munich.

[2] 2. The Portrait of Catharina Both van der Eem, a pendant to that of her husband Paulus van Beresteyn by Frans Hals, is considered to have been painted by one of the artist’s collaborators. The Portrait of an Old Woman from the La Caze bequest has recently been reattributed to a possible collaboration with his son.

[3] 3.Acknowledged paintings by Frans Hals are extremely rare on the art market ; the Portrait of Willem van Heythuyzen, which reappeared in Austria under another name and had caused quite a sensation at the exhibition Dutch Portraits (see article only in french) was auctioned at Sotheby’s London last July.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : The Louvre posts database for D’Outre-Manche online

Next article in News Items : The Arrest of Christ after Caravaggio recovered in Ukraine