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Regents of the Harlem poorhouse - France Hals. 170.5 x 249.5 cm
The most essential features of the portrait of the regents are completed, as it were, the final expression in portrait regent, wealthy guardians of the almshouse. The splendidly preserved painting is executed more carefully and subtly, the composition traditional for such paintings is unshakable in its perfection.
With the exception of the complacent and miserable, smiling helplessly elderly coquette, all the regents are deep old women. Each of them is a bright and definite individuality: a painful, relatively soft treasury to the left, a vicious and terrible old woman next to her, a near-looking young lady and, finally, Adriana Bredenhof sitting on her right - the embodiment of will, inner strength and icy detachment from human concerns and passions. However, there is something in it from physical and moral dying, the destruction of man, which affected them all to varying degrees, but most noticeably affected the appearance of the second regent on the left. The melted flesh bared the bones of the skull, the fullness of natural human feelings was replaced by petty viciousness, the old woman became a living reminder of death. Only a middle-aged, but healthy and good-natured maid is not subject to the grave cold filling the picture.
The uncertainty and emptiness inherent in the portrait of the regents in the portrait of the regent turned into a tragic reflection on the imminent death. The thought that pursued Halsa was embodied in the image of women as old as he was. However, the content of the paintings is not at all exhausted by the artist’s personal experiences, however significant they may be. It is not limited to the ironic exposure of bourgeois charity, although such a shade of content can be found in the canvases of Hels. Hals knows how to turn his disappointments, bitterness and anxiety into an insight of the great truth, and not an indisputable assessment of human life and human society. Once he glorified this society and this life, now he renders them a merciless, bitter sentence. And the Dutch burghery and Hals himself changed so that past illusions became impossible.