Frans Hals (Antwerp 1581/5-1666 Haarlem)
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Frans Hals (Antwerp 1581/5-1666 Haarlem)

Portrait of Conradus Viëtor (1588-1657), aged 56, half-length, in a black doublet, cloak and hat, with a white ruff, and holding a book

Frans Hals (Antwerp 1581/5-1666 Haarlem)
Portrait of Conradus Viëtor (1588-1657), aged 56, half-length, in a black doublet, cloak and hat, with a white ruff, and holding a book
signed with monogram, inscribed with the sitter's name and age, and dated 'FH M CONRADVS VIETOR· ÆTATIS 56 Ao 1644' (upper right)
oil on canvas
32½ x 26 in. (82.5 x 66 cm.)
Presumably acquired by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792), for Luton Park, Bedfordshire, where a 'portrait' by Franz 'Halas or Halls' was recorded by Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793) in 1776 in his copy of Orlandi's Abecedario Pittorico (see F. Russell, loc. cit.), and by descent through
John Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847-1900) to
Lord Robert Crichton-Stuart, by 1949 (according to E.K. Waterhouse's annotation on his copy of the 1883 exhibition catalogue [J.P. Getty Museum, Los Angeles]).
W. Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei, Berlin, 1883, no. 135 (dated c. 1635).
J.P. Richter, Catalogue of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by the Marquess of Bute, Glasgow, 1884, no. 69, 'This highly important work..'.
E. Moes, Iconographia Batava, Amsterdam, 1897-1905, p. 530, nos. 8491-2.
E.W. Moes, Frans Hals, sa vie et son oeuvre, translated J. de Boschere, Brussels, 1909, pp. 70-1, no. 81.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., X, London, 1910, p. 70, no. 236, as on panel, 'The hands are modelled in a masterly fashion'.
W. von Bode and M.J. Binder, Frans Hals. His Life and Work (translated M.W. Brockwell), I, 1914, p. 16, no. 203, fig. 129A.
W.R. Valentiner, Frans Hals. Des Meisters Gemälde (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921, p. 200, illustrated and p. 318; also the 1923 edition, Berlin and Leipzig, p. 214, illustrated, and p. 319.
P.C. Molhuysen and Fr.K.H. Kossmann, Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, Leiden, 1933, IX, p. 1210.
C. Grimm, Frans Hals: Entwicklung, Werkanalyse Gesamtkatalog, Berlin, 1972, p. 215, as Frans Hals II.
S. Slive, Frans Hals, New York and London, 1974, II, pl. 248; III, pp. 77-8. no. 152.
C. Grimm and E.C. Montagni, L'Opera Completa di Frans Hals, Milan, 1974, p. 104, no. 165b, as Frans Hals II; also the French edition, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals, Paris, 1976, no. 165b.
C. Grimm, Frans Hals. Das Gesamtwerk, Stuttgart and Zurich, 1989, p. 46, and p. 268, footnote 26; also the English edition, Frans Hals. The Complete Work, New York, 1990, p. 46, and p. 267, footnote 27, as workshop.
F. Russell, John, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector, London, 2004, p. 193.
London, Bethnal Green Branch Museum, The Collection of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by the Marquis of Bute, K.T., 1883, no. 94.
Glasgow, The Collection of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by the Marquis of Bute, K.T., 1884, no. 69.
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
Sale room notice
We are grateful for the loan of this frame from Arnold Wiggins & Sons. For more information on the frame please contact a memeber of the department.

Lot Essay

Conradus Viëtor was born in Aachen and is first documented as a Lutheran preacher in Cologne in 1614. The following year he was called to Haarlem by the local Lutheran community and he remained there for the rest of his life, serving a congregation that made up just two percent of the city's religious population. Viëtor was at the centre of the religious debates that reverberated in Haarlem in the first half of the century. He became famous for his polemical writings, particularly those that defended the baptism of children, among which was his Summarisch ende warachtig verhael, van 't beginsel eener t' samensprekinghe van den doop der christenkinderen, published in 1628, and Korte waarschouwinge voorlopers wijse ghedaen - van weghen 't genaemde wederleg sijner bewijsredenen in 1632, which provoked a pointed response from the Anabaptists in the form of writings directed personally against him.

Viëtor sat to Hals for this picture in 1644, in the midst of the decade in which demand for his portraits started to wane slightly and his style became gradually more restrained. Hals's preference during this period to depict his sitters in black costumes, in formal - more static - poses, and against darkened backgrounds was no doubt a self-conscious move to cater to the prevailing taste for the smooth manner of the Amsterdam portraitists such as Bartolomeus van der Helst and Ferdinand Bol. Viëtor is painted according to a simple compositional formula, facing to the right with his head turned to the viewer, his sober attitude in keeping with his profession. His presence is given added weight by the black cape worn over his shoulders and the wide-brimmed hat that casts a shadow over his forehead. In his hands, he clasps a book, an obvious allusion to his activity as a preacher and writer. His thumb is cocked over the pages giving the impression that he has either just finished or is about to read from it, a device that adds a sense of spontaneity and movement to the composition. This device recurs frequently in Hals's portraits of scholars and clergymen; for instance, Johannes Hoornbeek, in the portrait of 1645 (Brussels, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts), holds open a book in his left hand, as does the minister Herman Langelius (circa 1660, Amiens, Musée de Picardie) and Samuel Ampzing in the small copper of circa 1630 (Sotheby's, London, 5 December 2007, lot 29, £4,000,000).

If the form of this portrait is relatively conventional (or conventional by Hals's standards), the unhesitating execution is typically dazzling and individualistic. Perhaps Hals's greatest gift was his ability to capture the essence of his sitters' characters and here Viëtor is brought to life in free brushstrokes yet with a remarkable measure of economy and control. Slive (loc. cit.) summarised Hals's painting in the 1640s thus: 'The paint becomes thinner, the touch broader and even more summary, deliberately suppressing detail while increasing the emphasis on character and mood'.

In spite of this portrait's overtly Halsian qualities and its long held position within the body of literature on the artist, it was doubted by Claus Grimm who considered it a workshop production (loc. cit.). His views are the same about a relatively large number of paintings (he ascribes around fifty fewer than Seymour Slive to Hals's oeuvre) and, among others, these include the Portrait of a Man (Sotheby's, New York, 23 January 2003, lot 37A; now Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna), the Herman Langelius, and the portrait of Ampzing (both mentioned above) that he deemed a copy. As was pertinent to the Ampzing portrait, the case against the present work seems particularly problematic given that the painting was engraved by Jonas Suyderhoef who was related by marriage to Hals (his brother was married to the painter's niece; see fig.1). The dedication by I.V.D. Linden that accompanies the engraving is in the form of an epitaph, implying that it was made soon after Viëtor's death and thus well within Hals's own lifetime. It seems implausible to suggest that some other now lost picture by Hals served as the basis for the engraving and equally implausible that Suyderhoef would have worked from a workshop picture, or that Hals would have allowed it.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, mentor to the future King George III in the 1750s and Prime Minister in 1762-3, was a notable collector of Dutch seventeeth-century pictures. He began to collect in the 1740s, but it was only after the death of his father-in-law in 1761 that he could do so on a substantial scale. His main collection, built up by the mid-1770s, was kept at Luton Park; later purchases seem to have been intended for Highcliffe House, Hampshire. Bute had a particular interest in Cuyp, in Ruisdael and other landscapists, assembling a particularly comprehensive representation of the Italianate Dutch masters. He also had a predilection for the 'fine masters'. He was not really interested in still-life painting and owned relatively few Dutch portraits, with the notable exceptions of this canvas and a pair of pictures by Terborch. Bute's relative lack of interest in pictures of this kind may explain why it was not among those inventoried in the late 1790s in the main suite of rooms at Luton.

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