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Regents of the Harlem poorhouse - Frans Hals. 172.3 x 256 cm
In the portrait of the regents, in addition to the old servant, five men are depicted, very different in their appearance, character and spiritual capabilities. Full of hidden, but frighteningly crushing energy, the elderly man on the left confronts his weak-willed, now desolate, then deserted colleagues.
Among them, attention is drawn to a dandy carefully dressed in the latest fashion of the day at the right edge of the picture. With nervous, torn, swift strokes, Hals writes cascades of crumpled, wrinkled folds on his white shirt; graceful gesture of a hand in a dark glove against the background of the magnificent whiteness of the sleeve; a reddish-pink stocking fitting over his knee (the brightest spot in the picture). The complete elegance of the costume, the aesthetic expressiveness of these fabrics, these colors is in a strange mismatch with the tired emptiness of the rumpled, kind of shapeless, although still quite young face. His neighbor, pushed a little further into the depths of the picture, lowered and seriously ill, looks straight ahead with a meaningless look. However, neither one nor the other, in essence, turn to the viewer, do not notice him, immersed in thoughtless apathy.
In this regard, the exception among the characters of the picture is a person sitting in the center sideways to the table. On his rather young, attractive face lies the stamp of intelligence and benevolence; the fatigue and frustration of his neighbors takes on his significance as a justified, meaningful worldview. There is too much thoughtful detachment in the gaze directed at the viewer so that the living connection that once was so characteristic of many works of Hals was established between him and the viewer.
The painting noticeably faded, the colors became cloudy and lost depth, and yet the strength and virtuosity of the painting testify to the enormous creative possibilities of the eighty-year-old artist. It happened that lovers of smooth, “pleasant” painting were unable to appreciate the beauty and expressiveness of Hals's deeply subjective, individual manner. It was said that his paintings were written carelessly, that the artist's hand trembled from old age. Even if that was the case, his sense of form was so keen that wide, generalizing strokes unmistakably sculpted volume, conveyed the nature of movement, the texture of the fabric, and the complex expression of the human face.