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

Pieter van den Broecke

c. 1633
Oil on canvas, 71,2 x 61 cm
Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, London

In this portrait there is a perfect match of a painter's style to the sitter. Hals's bold, direct manner is ideally suited to portrayal of the Antwerp-born colonial trader Pieter van den Broecke (1585-1640) who lived in Haarlem. He was first active as a merchant in West Africa and subsequently served the Dutch East India Company in Java, Arabia, Persia and India. In 1630 he brought back to the Netherlands an important fleet from India and was rewarded by the Dutch East India Company for his seventeen years of service with a gold chain worth 1200 guilders. It is this chain which he proudly wears in the portrait.

In 1634 van den Broecke published an account of his exotic career which presents a purposeful and straightforward man who was typical of the aggressive entrepreneurs who shaped the Dutch commercial empire. This portrait, with its thrusting and confident pose, gives a similar impression and it is not surprising to find that it was used, in the form of an engraving by Adriaen Matham, as the frontispiece of van den Broecke's book. Van den Broecke knew Frans Hals well, acting as a witness at the baptism of Hals's daughter, Susanna, in 1634. The second witness was one Adriaen Jacobsz., almost certainly the Adriaen Matham who engraved the portrait for van den Broecke's autobiography.