Photo: courtesy of The Wallace Collection

Laughing Cavalier

Frans Hals, 1624
The Wallace Collection, London

A suppressed smile and mocking eyes: filled with self-confidence, the 26-year-old man bursts from the canvas. His hat sits nonchalantly on his brown curls, his moustache is impressively coiffed, and he is dressed in costly but above all fashionable clothing. The powerful composition in combination with the lively style creates such an overwhelming effect that the young man seems almost physically present in the great gallery of the Wallace Collection. Haarlem’s most famous portrait painter, Frans Hals, made the cavalier so monumental by largely filling the picture plane with his pose and opting for a low perspective. Hals showed his sublime mastery of paint and brush in the representation of skin, hair, and especially in the different kinds of textiles worn by his sitter. It was the rapier, combined with his fashionable clothing, that was responsible for the young man’s cheerfully military epithet. However, in terms of his age and the date of creation, no Haarlem officer can be identified who might match the young man in the painting. One possible candidate is Tieleman Roosterman (1597-1672), a merchant in linen, cloth and silk.

Sabine Craft-Giepmans, Head of research and development, RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague

Explore more

The Laughing Cavalier

More information from the museum

Read on

Frans Hals: The Male Portrait

2021 exhibition at the Wallace Collection


The Laughing Cavalier: Identity Revealed?

Lecture by Pieter Biesboer (52 min)

View on youtube