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The title 'The Laughing Cavalier' was coined between 1875 and 1888, yet, as has often been pointed out, the sitter is neither laughing nor a cavalier. He wears a rich jacket embroidered with motifs common in emblem books of the time and symbolic of the pains and pleasures of love, including arrows, flaming cornucopiae and lovers’ knots, which may suggest that the picture is a betrothal portrait. One of the most brilliant of all Baroque portraits, the picture’s low viewpoint and swaggering pose contribute to its sense of monumentality. At close hand the painting also astounds with its bravura technique. The vivid colours, differing textures and details of the costume are brilliantly captured by Hals’s fluid, expressive brushwork.

The Wallace Collection



The Laughing Cavalier




oil on canvas


H 83 x W 67.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1865; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

Work type



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The Wallace Collection

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, Greater London W1U 3BN England

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