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The Cover
October 15, 2003

Catharina Hooft With Her Nurse

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(15):1959. doi:10.1001/jama.290.15.1959

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.