Frans Hals (1582/83-1666), Portrait of René Descartes (1596-1650), c. 1649

Frans Hals (1582/83-1666), Portrait of René Descartes (1596-1650), c. 1649. Oil on oak. 19 x 14 cm. Long term loan 1922.
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Public Domain

This small painting has been harshly treated. Someone has scratched zigzagging lines across it. But why such vandalism? Perhaps because it depicts a philosopher and mathematician who introduced many new ideas. 

Provocative thinking
Even though the portrait is only a painted sketch for an etching by Jonas Suyderhoef, and possibly for a painted life-sized portrait too, it has not survived unscathed. But what was so new and provocative about Descartes? His scientific discoveries within mathematics? Or perhaps his philosophical writings, where he concludes that human thought is the only absolute?

Frans Hals is believed to have painted this sketch before Descartes left Haarlem in September 1649 to serve Queen Christina of Sweden.

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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