The Gypsy Girl
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The title of this painting by Frans Hals is a bit of a misnomer.

Hals depicts here a prostitute smiling provocatively. The title The Gypsy Girl was given to the painting in the 19th century by Louis La Caze, who owned the painting. However, he did not recognize that the subject of this work was a prostitute. The young woman depicted shows a deep cleavage, which is emphasized by Hals’ use of light. She has rosy cheeks and looks to her left. It seems that she is trying to seduce a potential client. Check the blog post on for some more details.

By 17th- and 21st-century standards, the woman is not very pretty. She has a somewhat big nose, not a very smooth skin, and her hair is somewhat unkempt. However, her facial expression is so intriguing that this work leaves a lasting impression on those who view the painting. Moreover, the painting style used for this work helps to make The Gypsy Girl very memorable. In fact, when the Louvre inherited this painting in 1869, the influential newspaper Gazette des Beaux-Arts praised Hals as the best painter ever. Frans Hals used loose and rough brush strokes for this painting. While he used them even more in his genre pieces, his magnificent portraits also show his loose brush strokes. Two of his magnificent portraits are The Laughing Cavalier from 1624 and his Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman from 1634.

Radiographic analysis of this painting revealed that Frans Hals initially wanted to paint a less provocative version of this woman. Her breasts were smaller and less exposed. However, Hals decided to make the painting more provocative. This painting shows more cleavage than any other painting by Hals. The open mouth of the woman is also a telltale sign. Decent women from the 17th century would never be depicted with a smile or open mouth in a portrait as that was considered indecent.

While Hals was a popular local painter during his life, his works were largely forgotten after his death. The Impressionist painters rediscovered his work in the 1860s. Artists like Manet and Monet were inspired by the lack of detail, beautiful composition, and the loose brush strokes of Hals. Hals work has only increased in popularity since and new paintings of him still surface, such as his Saint John the Evangelist which was rediscovered in 1997.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Gypsy Girl

The Gypsy Girl (sometimes erroneously referred to as Malle Babbe) is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, painted in 1628 and now in the Louvre Museum. It is a tronie, a study of facial expression and unusual costume, rather than a commissioned portrait. The display of cleavage was not a common feature of costume seen in public in Hals' time and place.


This painting was catalogued by Hofstede de Groot in 1910, who wrote "119. THE GYPSY GIRL. B. 41; M. 263 - Half-length; life size. A laughing gipsy girl, seen almost in full face, looks down towards the right. Her brown hair falls on her shoulders. She wears a red bodice over a white chemise which exposes her breast. Yellow flesh-tones. A superb picture."

Hofstede de Groot noticed that the dress of the sitter in this painting is similar to two other paintings by Hals, and he included them on either side of this one (catalogue numbers 118 and 120). This painting was first documented in a Paris sale in 1782 and every Frans Hals catalog after that includes her. In the exhibition catalog for the 1962 show, this painting's entry at #23 states that in a raking light one can see that diagonal strokes were once painted on either side of her breasts, indicating that Hals first made her décolleté less daring. Since Hals usually painted his genre works wet-on-wet in one go, such evidence of discovery while working is perhaps evidence of a certain reservation on Hals's part to make a portrait of a wanton woman, though in his time it was a common subject.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Gypsy Girl.