Laughing cavalier

(1624; London, Wallace Collection)
   It is not clear who the sitter in this portrait by Frans Hals is, though the inscription on the upper right corner specifies that the man was 26 years old when the artist rendered the work. The title of the painting is a 19th-century invention unrelated to the subject. In fact, the sitter is not shown laughing. Instead he smiles self-assuredly. His jacket is adorned with emblems that refer to manly virtues and amorous pursuits, which has led some to believe that the portrait marks his wedding day. Among the embroideries of his costume are Mercury's cap and caduceus (rod with intertwined snakes), taken from Andrea Alciato's Liber Emblemata where these objects are accompanied by the motto: "Fortune, companion of manly effort." The bees, winged arrows, flames, and cornucopias are all references to Cupid's sting. Typical of Hals' style are the loose, choppy brushstrokes that lend great animation to the work and the low vantage point that confers an air of monumentality.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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