The dilemma and the deliberation
The non-original coats of arms were a major topic of discussion during the restoration. Should they be removed? Should they be painted over, or should they remain visible? Sometimes later additions to paintings are removed but that is not always the case with coats of arms on portraits, which have value as historical documents. They tell us something about the subjects, the history of the painting and the value of the painting to its owner. Removal, therefore, was not an option.
In the Mauritshuis however, the art-historical and aesthetic value of paintings is the most important consideration. That is why, after careful deliberation, a decision was made to remove the coats of arms from view by overpainting them, thereby restoring the paintings to a condition as close as possible to how Hals originally painted them.
No historical information was lost in painting over the shields since all additions are reversible, thereby making it easy for future generations to uncover the coats of arms if they so desire. For the moment, though, the coats of arms no longer detract attention from Aletta and Jacob and the depth of the paintings is much improved. And so the Mauritshuis is once again the proud owner of two wonderful portraits by Frans Hals.