Frans Hals with Studio assistant

Antwerp 1582/83 - Haarlem 1666

Portrait of a gentleman, possibly Theodorus Blevet (1598-1661), bust-length, in a black costume with a white collar, holding a pen in his right hand.

Portrait of a gentleman, possibly Theodorus Blevet (1598-1661), bust-length, in a black costume with a white collar, holding a pen in his right hand.

Oil on Panel, oval, 43.6 x 36 cm
Inscribed 'AETAT SVAE 30' (centre right) 



F. Lippmann, Berlin;
with Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, 1919;
Looted by the Nazi authorities, July 1940;
Recovered by the Allies, 1945;
in the custody of the Dutch Government;
Restituted in February 2006 to the heir of Jacques Goudstikker;
Sale Christie’s Amsterdam, 14 November 2007, lot 4;
Private Collection, USA.


W.R. Valentiner, 'Frans Hals, des Meisters Gemälde', in Klassiker der Kunst, Stuttgart/Berlin, 1921, p. 80, illustrated, p. 311 as Frans Hals;
W.R. Valentiner, 'Frans Hals, des Meisters Gemälde', in Klassiker der Kunst, Stuttgart/Berlin, 1923, p. 83, illustrated, p. 312 as Frans Hals;
F. Dülberg, Life and work of Frans Hals, Stuttgart, 1930, pp. 100-1;
M.M. van Dantzig, Frans Hals. Echt of onecht, Amsterdam Paris, 1937, pp. 88-9, no. 71, as 17th century anonymous;
C. Grimm, L'Opera completa di Frans Hals, Milan, 1974, pp. 110-1, no. 220, as formerly attributed to Frans Hals;
S. Slive, Frans Hals, New York/London, 1970-4, III, p. 144, no. D 43, under doubtful and wrongly attributed works;
C. Wright, Paintings in Dutch Museums. An Index of Oil Paintings in Public Collections in The Netherlands by Artists born before 1870, London, 1980, p. 158, as a copy;
Old Master Paintings: An illustrated summary catalogue, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst (The Netherlandish Office for the Fine Arts), The Hague, 1992, p. 129, no. 1041, illustrated;
Forthcoming: C. Grimm, France Hals (Catalogue Raisonné, RKD, The Hague), no. A3. 13.


The Hague, Schilderkundig Genootschap Pulchri Studio, Catalogue de la Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, November 1919, no. 50, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
Amsterdam, Maatschappij voor Beeldende Kunst, Catalogue de la Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, 14 December 1919-4 January 1920, no. 28, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
Copenhaguen, Staaten's Museum for Konst, Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, January-February 1920, no. 24, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
Christiania [Oslo], Utstillet Christiania Kunstforening, Katalog over Goudstikkers Samling Amsterdam, April 1920, no. 24, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
St. Louis, City Art Museum, November 1922, no. 45;
Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, January 1923, no. 27;
New York, The Anderson Galleries, March 1923, no. 48;
Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, Catalogue de la Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, 20 December 1924-11 January 1925, no. 30, as Frans Hals;
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, December 1925-January 1926, no. 10;
The Hague, Schilderkundig Genootschap Pulchri Studio, Catalogue de la Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, 13 March-4 April 1926, no. 66, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, Catalogue de la Collection Goudstikker d'Amsterdam, 10-25 April 1926, no. 43, as Frans Hals; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Tentoonstelling van oude Kunst, 1929, no. 61, as Frans Hals;
Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, Catalogus der Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Antiquiteiten geexposeerd door den Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker N.V., Amsterdam, 17 December 1936-10 January 1937, no. 26, illustrated, as Frans Hals;
Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, Tentoonstelling van oude kunst in het Frans Halsmuseum, 4-26 April 1936, p. 17, no. 17, as Frans Hals;
Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, Frans Hals tentoonstelling ter gelegenheid van het 75-jarig bestaan van het Gemeentelijk Museum Haarlem, 30 June 1937, no. 38, fig. 38, as Frans Hals. 

Additionnal Information

The man portrayed here with such a kind, gentle look in his eyes, is thirty years old, as stated in the inscription. He holds a quill in his right hand, which could indicate that he was a writer, schoolmaster or calligrapher. In 1638 Frans Hals portrayed the French schoolmaster and calligrapher Jean de la Chambre (1605-1668) with a quill in his right hand in a similar fashion.[1] Likewise the French schoolmaster and calligrapher Theodore Blevet (1598-1661) presents himself holding a quill, ready in his hand, as is shown in the engraving by Theodoor Matham (1605/06-1676) – done after a lost portrait by Frans Hals of 1640.[2] In the view of the present writer, the face of Blevet in the Matham engraving bears a striking resemblance to the oval portrait under consideration herein. The shape of his balding head and his jawline is almost identical, as are the lines of the eyebrows. The eyes, the nose and his right ear also look very similar. His straight hair is longer in the engraving, but still compares easily, and the beard, and the moustache - with its curled-up ends - look very much alike. Based on this comparison the identity of the present portrait as representing Theodoor Blevet appears a plausuble hypothesis.


According to the inscription in the Matham engraving, Blevet was painted by Frans Hals in 1640 at 42 years of age, meaning that Blevet was born in 1598. Thus, the twelve years younger Blevet portrayed in the present painting must have been painted in 1628. Valentiner presented it as a work by Frans Hals, erroneously identifying it as a portrait of the brewer Willem Warmont, who was born in 1583 and could not possibly have been portrayed here as a man of 30 years old, as Slive already pointed out. Slive also considered the attribution of the portrait to Frans Hals as doubtful and suggested the young Bartholomeus van de Helst as its possible maker, as he spent his early years in Haarlem and must have known the work of Hals. Slive suggested a date of the portrait of about 1630, but the fact that Van der Helst was born in Haarlem in 1613 excludes the possibility that he could have been the author of this work.


At closer inspection of the details around the eyes, the rapid, fluid brushwork in the moustache, the beard and the hair and the bold shadow contour in his cheek, the shadow in the parting of the lips certainly betray the hand of Frans Hals himself. Also the individual expression, especially the gentle look in the man’s eyes and the rendering of the shape of the hand and its fingers is unparalleled and could not be matched by any other artist in Haarlem. All these characteristics can be found in a little portrait of a man in Berlin.[3] (fig. 2) Also in some of the heads of the officers in the Militia Companies of 1627 in the Frans Hals Museum there is a resemblance in the detailing of the features of their faces in particular the face of Cornelis Coning (fig. 3) and Willem Warmont.[4] (fig. 4)


The bold deep bone black shadow accents of the shoulder cap of his jerkin on the sleeve are also characteristic for Hals’ style of painting. The brushwork in the ruff points to Hals as well. In the thick, lead-white accents at the edges of the finely scrolled linen double ridges can be observed, which are typical for Hals’ painterly style. Usually in the work by other artists those ridges can be seen only in the right or left edge, depending if he is right or left-handed. In fact, there can be no doubt about the authorship of this painting; it cannot be done by any other but Frans Hals himself. A dating of 1628 correlates completely with Hals’ painterly manner at that time.


(II) The possible identification of the sitter: a biographical sketch


The calligrapher and schoolmaster Theodorus (or Thedoor) Blevet was of French origin. He was born in St. Jean d’Angély in 1598 as can be deduced from the record of his marriage in Amsterdam in 1621.[5] Six years earlier in 1615 he had arrived in Amsterdam. His bride Sara van Breen was the daughter of Guilliaem van Breen and Sara Reyniers Frax originally from Antwerp who first moved to Middelburg and later settled in Amsterdam in 1595. Guilliaem van Breen had died in 1617 in the St. Annendwarsstraet.[6] Sara was born in Middelburg in 1589. The engraver, cartographer, ‘schriftsnijder’ (script engraver, lettering maps) Daniel van Breen (1599-1665) was her younger brother, born in Middelburg as well in 1599. She also had a sister Elisabeth born in 1592 who was married in 1623 to Isaac Pietersz schoolmaster in Delft.[7] Her brother Arent born in Middelburg 1591 was a goldsmith.[8]


It was no coincidence that Theodorus Blevet (who also called himself Dirck in some documents) married into the Van Breen family. He was only a year older than Daniel van Breen, who was trained as an engraver, letter engraver and map engraver, a specialism that involved also the engraving of calligraphy, Blevet’s professional expertise. They probably met as young students and became friends resulting in Blevet meeting his future wife, Sara. On 6 November 1622 their daughter Susanna was baptised in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.[9] Blevet and his family moved to Beverwijk in April 1626, where he became a schoolmaster at a school on the Koningsweg and in May that year their daughter Sara was born. Later in 1632 Blevet bought the school for himself and became the headmaster. In a sketchbook of 1648-49 Daniel van Breen made a drawing of the buildings. (fig. 5)


In 1638 Blevet bought a large house on the Anjeliersgracht, Amsterdam, which was used to house his brother-in-law Daniel van Breen, his mother-in-law and unmarried sister-in-law, Maayken.[10] Daniel drew a detailed plan of the house in his sketchbook of 1648-49, giving us an idea of the size of the premises.[11] Three years later Blevet bought another house, this time in Haarlem on Klein Heiligland for 7800 car. guilders.[12][

Theodoor Blevet died in 1661, followed by his widow Sara van Breen in 1664. An inventory of their possessions was made in which the houses in Beverwijk, Haarlem and Amsterdam are listed as well as 45.440 car. guldens worth of stocks and bonds and 640 car. guldens in cash.[13] Among the listed furniture and other movable property the portrait of Mr. Theodoor Blevet is recorded as well as the portraits of Sara van Breen and their daughter Sara Blevet hanging together in the main reception room (de beste camer).[14] This portrait most probably is the present portrait of Theodoor Blevet as it has a more intimate, private character than the lost portrait in the engraving of Theodoor Matham, which was used for promotional, professional purposes. The portrait of Sara van Breen mentioned in the inventory must have been its pendant. Her portrait has not been identified, but might be found in the future. 


Pieter Biesboer.








Haarlem, 27-02-2023.


[1]Inscribed: 1638./aet. 33, panel  20,6 x 16,8 cm, London, National Gallery, inv. 64.11). Seymour Slive Frans Hals, London/New York 1970-1974 , vol. 3 (1974), p. 65, no. 122; Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, London/New York 2014, p. 179, Pl. 122.

[2] Slive 1970-1974, vol. 3, p. 122, L 13, fig. 88.

[3] Frans Hals, Portrait of a Man, oil on copper, 19,9 x 14,1 cm, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen. Slive 2014, p. 85, Pl. 33.

[4] Frans Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St Hadrian, canvas 183 x 266,5 cm, Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, inv. OS I -111. Slive 2014, p. 100, Pl. 48. Frans Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the  Civic Guard of St.George, canvas 179 x257,5 cm, Haarlem, Fans Hals Museum, inv. nr. OS I-110. Slive 2014, p. 102, Pl. 49.

[5] Ondertrouw 03-04-1621 te Amsterdam: Theodore Blevet van St. Jean d’Angelus schoolmeester woonende inde St. Jansstraat ende Sara van Breen van Middelburg out 32 jaeren geassisteert met Saerken Reyniers haren moeder, wonende inde St. Annendwarsstraet.

SAA(Stadsarchief Amsterdam), Ach. nr. 5001, inv. 426, p. 19.

[6] I.H. van Eeghen, ‘Daniel van Breen “schriftsnijder” tot Amsterdam en Beverwijk”, Amstolodamum, 82, 1990, p. 63. Van Eeghen presents much information on other Van Breen relatives.

[7] Van Eeghen 1990, p. 64

[8] Ondertrouw op 02-01-1621 van Arent van Breen van Middelburg out 30 jaren geassisteert met Sara Frax sijne moeder wonende inde St. Annendwarsstr, goudsmit  ende Josijntgen de Hemel out 22 jaeren geassisteert met Maria Brunel wonende opde Breestraet.

SAA, Arch. nr. 5001, inv. nr. 425, p. 181.

[9] Doop op 06-11-1622 van Susanna, vader Dirck Blevet, moeder Sara van Breen, getuige Aron van Breen.

SAA, Arch. nr. 5001, inv. 42, f. 95, p. 189.

[10] Transport van een huis aan de Anjeliersgracht op 17 mei 1638:

Compareerden Pieter van Hullen zijdelintwercker verklarende vercofft, opgedragen ende quitteert te hebben aen Mr. Dirck Blevet schoolmeester tot Beverwijck een huijs ende erve staende opde Angeliersgracht […]. voor Dfl. 2200.

SAA, Arch. nr. 5062, inv. nr. 36, p. 15r-15v, no. 153. (huis is nu Westerstraat nr. 130)

[11] J.Z. Kannegieter, 'Een tekening van de plaatsnijder Daniel van Breen', Maandblad Amstelodamum 50 (1963), p. 130-139.

[12] NHA (Noord-Hollands Archief), Transporten Haarlem,  Ach. nr. 3111, inv. 315, f. 81v.

Jaecques de Lajur verkoopt Mr. Theodoor Blevet een huijs metten erve staende ende gelegen opt Klein Heiliglant naast het Bonte Paert belent de beijde huijsinge van het Bonte Paert met gemeene muur ten noorden met een gemeene muur daartegen ende inne stekende […] ten oosten streckende met het achterhuis van desen huijse belent voornoemde Bonte Paert met een gemeene muur daarin stekende Achter ook een gemene muur met de woning van pensionaris de Glarges.

7800 Car. guldens contant opden 23 maart 1641.

[13] ONA Beverwijk Notaris Jan Cornelisz Velsen, Arch. nr. 2344, inv. 246, f. 62 e.v.

Inventaris van de goederen van wijle Mr. Dirck Blevet en Sara van Breen sijne huijsvrouw. Ten opgeven van Sara van Breen en Maaijken van Breen bejaarde doghter.

[14]Idem f. 82:

Een schilderij van Sara Blevet

Een dito van Mr. Blevet

Een dito van sijne huijsvrouwe