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March 2005

Frans Hals’ Willem Coymans

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2005;7(2):152. doi:10.1001/archfaci.7.2.152

Leaning backward over a chair, Willem Coymans looks out at the viewer in an attitude of easy self-assurance. The family crest showing 3 oxen heads on a gold background on the wall behind him identifies the sitter as a member of the wealthy Coymans family of bankers—the Dutch word for cow, koei, is a play on the family name.1 Sometime at the end of the 19th century, the sitter’s age inscribed on the painting was wrongly changed from 22 to 26 years to support the identification of the sitter as Balthasar Coymans (1618-1690), the founder of the powerful Balthasar Coymans and Brothers firm in Amsterdam. The fact that Hals also executed portraits of Balthasar’s parents, Joseph Coymans and Dorothea Berck, and sister Isabella Coymans and her husband Stephanus Geraerdts in the 1640s lent credibility to the identification of the sitter as Balthasar. However, later scholarship proved that the sitter was actually his cousin, Willem Coymans, who was born to Coenraet Coymans and Maria Schuyl in Amsterdam in 1623, and consequently was 22 years old when he sat for his portrait. Little is known of Willem Coymans’ life, but there is evidence to suggest that he never married. It is likely that he worked in the family business in Amsterdam and Haarlem before his death in 1678.2Article