Portrait of a Man Holding a Watch (1643)

Hals, Frans (c.1582-1666)

Portrait of a Man Holding a Watch
Oil on canvas, 82.6 x 66.7 cm
Barnes FoundationPhiladelphia

For a long time the identity of this bearded man was unknown. Recent scholarship reveals that it is very likely a portrait of Mathijs Jansz Boeckels, a watchmaker from the Dutch city of Haarlem. This explains the emphasis of the gold timepiece at lower right; though small, the object gleams with importance. Boeckels came from a long line of prominent Mennonite watchmakers. His clothing is appropriately dark and simple, reflecting Mennonite restraint; moreover he lacks the showy white cuffs typically worn by the Dutch well-to-do. (BF)