(June 3, 2020) Most museums and art galleries operate under the umbrella of charity and are established from the start as houses of culture. The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Netherlands, however, first came into being as the Old Men’s Almshouse, a place where elderly men living in poverty could live safely and receive regular meals. The almshouses were paid for by charitable contributions.The museum commemorates the work of Frans Hals, the Dutch Golden Age painter who, along with Johannes Vermeer, is considered one of the greats of the Dutch Golden Age. In his old age, as Frans Hals’ own fortune waned, he himself became the recipient of a charitable stipend from the Haarlem city government. As such, his group portraits of the charitable administrators and donors of the Old Men’s Almshouse are rich with the complex emotional details of the relationship between benefactor and recipient. Featured below is Hals’ work, exhibited at the former the Old Men’s Almshouse, as well as the work of Abraham de Vries, Cornelis Engelsz and an Anonymous painter, exhibited at the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum, providing a window into donor recognition, 17th century Dutch master style.
Nicolaes Hasselaer. Frans Hals. c. 1630-1633. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Hasselaer was a brewer by trade, and a captain in the civic guard, but also acted as a regent for a city orphanage. He appears in this capacity in a group portrait by Abraham de Vries, as the figure on the far right. (Rijksmuseum)