The Laughing Cavalier, previously known as The Cavalier, is a famous painting at The Wallace Collection in London. It was painted by Dutch “Golden Age Painter” Frans Hals back in 1624 (a mere 388 years ago). In fact, Hals, died on August 26, 1666 (356 years ago!). He was born ca. 1582 in Antwerp and spent most of his life in Haarlem and is buried there at St. Bavo’s Church.
Provenance for this portrait can only be traced back to 1770. It changed hands a couple of times, until it was purchased by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1865, who outbid Baron James de Rothschild for it. No doubt he was “laughing all the way to the bank“.
It was exhibited in 1888, at the Royal Academy, for the first time as “The Laughing Cavalier“. Marquess of Hertford’s son, Sir Richard Wallace, inherited this and all of his father’s collection and following his death, his widow donated it as well as the London house to the nation as the Wallace Collection. If you have not seen this, you simply have to. Another famous painting and one of my all time favourite’s from the Wallace Collection is The Swing by Fragonard (mentioned in an earlier post).
Many claim that the Cavalier’s eyes follow you around the room, and many films, TV shows, comedy and horror productions often send this up, especially when they show versions of the painting with cut-out eyes and “real” eyeballs watching all those in the room therein.
So, who’s laughing now? Well, you know the old saying: “He who laughs last, didn’t get the joke.“