|The impish expression of this laughing boy is so perfectly portrayed that only Frans Hals could have done it. The lad’s broad grin exposes his slightly brown teeth. He cheeks are blooming with health, and his tangled hair sticks out in all directions. This is without doubt one of the most disarmingly endearing pictures of the 17th century.
Here Hals used an extremely coarse manner of painting featuring broad brushwork. The individual brushstrokes are still clearly visible, particularly in the hair and the collar. Here Hals painted, quickly and spontaneously, his impression of this cheerful child.
Such paintings, called ‘tronies’ in the 17th century, were not intended as portraits: the point was to produce not an identifiable likeness but an apt characterisation or a particular mood – in this case the boy’s infectious laughter.