Frans Hals is widely considered the most brilliant exponent of Dutch portraiture, a genre that enjoyed immense popularity in the seventeenth century. At the time, Holland was a leading centre for trade and finance, and its wealthy citizens were keen for their good fortune to be immortalised through their likenesses. Hals displayed unrivalled skill in capturing the personality of his sitters, endowing them with a lively, spontaneous air not to be found in the work of earlier portrait artists. He achieved this with a broad, loose brushwork that seems very modern for the period. Hals is best remembered for his group portraits, of which this is a fine example. Here, the couple are holding hands—an allusion to faithfulness as one of the virtues of marriage—while the dog at the girl’s side symbolises loyalty.