HALS, Frans
(b. 1580, Antwerpen, d. 1666, Haarlem)

The Laughing Cavalier

Oil on canvas, 83 x 67 cm
Wallace Collection, London

This is one of the most famous portraits in the world, yet the identity of the man is unknown. From the inscription in the upper right corner we know only that he was twenty-six years old when Hals painted him in 1624, presumably as a commission from the sitter himself. The title, inaccurate but now inseparable from the work, dates from the 1870s when it was first exhibited by Sir Richard Wallace. Its modern fame is founded partly on the incomparable skill with which Hals has painted the brilliant costume (including the love emblems on the doublet), but above all on the vivid portrayal of swaggering self-confidence.