The Laughing Cavalier was painted in 1624, the picture is one of the most famous portraits in the world and unquestionably Frans Hals's best-known work. The identity of the sitter is unknown: all we do know, from the inscription at top right, is that he was twenty-six years old at the time. The reputation of the work, purchased by Sir Richard Wallace in 1870 for what was then considered the exorbitant sum of over fifty thousand pounds, is linked to the manner in which the painter has succeeded in capturing the expression on the subject's face, communicating a sensation of immediacy and vivacity. Here. however, Hals's virtuoso exercise is united with a depth of psychological analysis uncommon in his work. The subject of laughter, which he tackled very often in his individual portrait painting, is a classical painting and shows the artist's skill in handling a theme already discussed in Greco Roman literature on art and addressed again in the Renaissance. The representation of the clothing owes a great deal to the example of Anthony van Dyck, especially in the depiction of the translucent satin, with long and rapid brushstrokes.
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