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"Willem van Heythuyzen", Oil by Frans Hals (1580-1666, Belgium)
This portrait, which was formerly dated about 1635 but upon the basis of style and costume should be dated about a decade earlier, is Hals's only known life-size, full-length. This type of portrait was not popular during the first half of the seventeenth century in Holland. It was one that was still primarily used for state portraits and the nobility; only the most powerful, the wealthiest or the most pretentious commissioned them. Moreover, few Dutch homes were large enough for them. But van Heythuyzen's residence was. Heythuyzen was a very rich merchant who made his great fortune in the city's textile industry, the principal source of Haarlem's prosperity after beer brewing. Even if nothing were known about van Heythuyzen's life there is no disputing it: Hals's portrait of him standing big as life captures the confidence and vitality of the burghers who made Holland the most powerful and richest nation in Europe during the first half of the seventeenth century. It is one of those rare pictures that seems to sum up an entire epoch. A sense of energy is conveyed by the tautness the artist gave to his model's bolt-upright figure. His extended leg does not dangle, but carries its full share of his weight. One arm just straight out, stiff as the sword he holds; the other makes a sharp angle from shoulder to elbow to hip, and even his knuckles take part in the taut, angular movement.