This flamboyant portrait by Hals was remarkable for its candid depiction of a not wholly flattering character and the amazing ways the painter depicted the endless varieties of fabrics and laces this cavalier carried in his bulk. It was in-your-face direct and you could not avoid his presence. You could hear his roaring laughter, you could smell the tobacco in his finery, and the smell of beer in his breath. You could not avoid a minor confrontation from him, if after his assessing of you as a worthy adversary or someone he could trample upon without repercussion. His humorous mustache could not disguise his hot temper and his readiness to pounce. A cavalier through and through. A roguish and less-than-refined kind.
While I was working on King Lear, I had a breathing space between the ‘roughs’ stage and the 'final’ stage so I painted this picture for practice. I am lucky enough to live in one of the most culturally rich cities on Earth (London) with a wealth of museums and galleries in which to gather research, so I decided to take full advantage. I took a trip to The Wallace Collection which has a remarkable collection of armour, swords and a host of incredible art. Not to mention the cafe/restaurant which has some nice cake. Swords, art and cake. Could you ask for more?
The armour of the fellow above was not taken directly from sketches of any one suit of armour, but from many. I wanted to get the painting completed for the Bologna Book Fair (where I am being represented by my lovely agency, Bright!) so I had to get it done in a day and a half. Originally there were hundreds of soldiers fighting all around the characters but they would have taken far too long. I fired the lot of them and opted for a bleak landscape instead. The recession and all that.
Here is a close up - though, like most things in life, it doesn’t look nearly as pretty:
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