Two paintings from the Devonshire Collections by the 17th-century Dutch artist, Frans Hals (1582/83-1666), are on loan to the National Gallery in London for a major exhibition celebrating the artist's work. Read more about the loan in this blog.

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Frans Hals is at the National Gallery until 21 January 2024 and is the first large-scale monographic exhibition devoted to Frans Hals in more than three decades. 

One of the paintings from Chatsworth is 'Portrait of a Man'(1622), thought to be the Dutch merchant, Issac Abrahamsz Massa.

During the cleaning and restoration of the portrait, experts at the National Gallery uncovered a skull and monstrous head hidden beneath layers of old varnish and dirt. The grotesque figures are looking over the shoulder of the sitter.

Hals painted several portraits of Massa and historians believe they were friends, with accounts of Massa being a witness at the baptism of one of Hals' children, so why would Hals include these figures in the portrait?

Watch curators and restorers at the National Gallery decode the secret messages hidden in the painting, a discovery that finally confirmed the sitter's identity. 

Main image and image above: 'Portrait of Issac Abrahamsz Massa' (1622) © Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth, image © The National Gallery, London

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Frans Hals is at the National Gallery until 21 January 2024.

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