barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Frans Hals (1581/5 – 1666)

A Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull

Haarlem, Holland, about 1610-14

Oil on wood

 

This portrait was painted as a pair with the image of the man’s wife appearing to the right.

The man has not been identified, in spite of the coat of arms, but the inscription records that he was 60 years old.  The double portrait celebrates the couple’s wealth and status, but the skull and the inscription ‘ITA MORI’ indicate a broader truth.  Worldly possessions cannot hide the fact that we are doomed to ‘To Perish Thus’, from living flesh and blood to whitened bones.

 

Purchased 1938 (No.38.6)