Listening to Art

10.10: Frans Hals, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume ten, number ten: Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa by Frans Hals.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

In this issue we return to a favourite work we have heard three times before, in volume five number four and volume eight numbers one and two, but this time the painting is in a different room at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was taken down to make space for a touring show of Picasso’s Blue Period (one work of which we heard in volume ten number two), and when it was rehung it was put in the room next to where it had been.

I have not previously mentioned that this is not the only portrait Frans Hals did of Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa. He did another solo portrait nine years later, and four years earlier, in 1622, he painted a dual portrait of Massa and his wife. I quote from Madlyn Millner Kahr’s chapter on Frans Hals in Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century (p. 72):

Though he was not averse to the use of traditional formats and poses, Frans Hals brought to his portraits a liveliness and dash that made them stand out amidst their competitors. He painted a number of pairs of portraits, but only two that are known today in which two figures appear in a joint portrait. One of these is a portrait of a married couple, which has frequently been misidentified as a portrait of Frans Hals and his wife. This it certainly is not. It has been convincingly identified as a marriage portrait of a well-known Dutch merchant, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa, and his wife, Beatrix van der Laen, who were married on April 26, 1622. That date would conform well with the style of the double portrait. Hals painted portraits of Massa in 1626 and in 1635, and his image in the marriage portrait is readily identifiable in relation to those portraits.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 65.1 cm wide by 79.7 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa by Frans Hals, recorded at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, on 11 March 2022.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa by Frans Hals. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Art Gallery of Ontario. “Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa.” Art Gallery of Ontario.

Denton, William. “Frans Hals, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa.” Listening to Art 05, no. 04 (01 July 2019).

⸻. “Frans Hals, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa.” Listening to Art 08, no. 01 (13 November 2020).

⸻. “Frans Hals, Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa.” Listening to Art 08, no. 02 (01 December 2020).

Kahr, Madlyn Millner. Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2018.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Frans Hals,”

⸻, s.v. “Isaac Massa,”

⸻, s.v. “Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen,”

⸻, s.v. “Portrait of Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa,”