Robin Simon at Literary Review:
Frans Hals was born in Antwerp in around 1582, moved to Haarlem when he was three, found fame rather late, in his mid-thirties, died in 1666 – and was forgotten, at least outside his native country. The apparent lack of finish in his work made it unfashionable in the eyes of connoisseurs and collectors until interest in his paintings grew again in the mid-19th century. In 1865 Hals’s Laughing Cavalier was bought for a vast sum by Lord Hertford and exhibited in London to huge acclaim. Soon afterwards it entered the Wallace Collection.
The funny thing about the Laughing Cavalier is that the cavalier isn’t laughing at all. He has a merry eye but is surely smiling, not laughing, beneath those famous whiskers. And that was just as it should be in 17th-century Haarlem, at least if you were of some social standing.