The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
If the Dutch of the prosperous 17th century were eager to document their
possessions—anything from exotic tulips to pewter cups—in stylish
paintings that they could hang on the walls of their homes, they were even
more eager to document themselves and their offspring. Elaborate portraits
defined not only a sitter's likeness, but his or her status as well. Ironically,
though status has long since ceased to matter, the likenesses continue to
draw us hundreds of years after their deaths. In fact, the faces and costumes
of the 17th century are perhaps more familiar to present-day viewers than
those of any other time or place. The burghers, the militiamen, the regents
and regentresses, the merrymakers, the smokers and tipplers we recognize easily
enough. Their likenesses are as familiar as family photos in an album. It
is the children's faces that catch our attention and bring us back to look
and to look again. And no one was better at imbuing those likenesses with
the true spirit of childhood—from coy to docile to mischievous to rebellious
and all shades between—than the Haarlem painter Frans Hals (1581/1585-1666).
He knew whereof he painted: he had ten children of his own, two with his first
wife Annetje and eight with his second wife Lysbeth. Five of his eight sons
became painters (three genre, one landscape, one history), but none even approached
the reputation of their father.
Southgate MT. Catharina Hooft With Her Nurse. JAMA. 2003;290(15):1959. doi:10.1001/jama.290.15.1959