The Deeply Sceptical Professor
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Portrait enthusiasts throughout Dorset were celebrating today as the Dorset County Portrait Gallery, Chetnole announced the rehanging - after extensive restoration - of one of its all-time favourite portraits Franz Hals-Bals's The Deeply Sceptical Professor. Previously known as both The Cynical Poseur and Le Cavalier Sexuellement Satisfait, the popular exhibit is [alongside a portrait of Our Lady of the Large Maracas] one of the outstanding treasures of the collection. It was removed in late 2018 following a demonstration by disenchanted feminists who claimed that the Professor's eyes followed them around the room. Admirers, who are hopeful no radical changes have been sanctioned, say it has been much-missed during its 15-month absence.
Considerable mystery surrounds the identity of the sitter. We know that he was an acquaintance of the painter aged about 26 with a taste for flamboyant clothes. Some experts believe that he is portrayed here in the garb of a cavalier de chamber [complete with easy-glide, no-snag codpiece] and that he might, therefore, be the famous "Dorset Cassanova" Brian de Harddon; whilst others insist that the garments depicted are those the Chancellor of the recently founded 16th-century University of Afpuddle whose ceremonial robes stood in stark contrast to those of the present Chancellor - Lord Waitaminute of Waitaminute Supermarkets - who wears, appropriately enough, a simplified version closely resembling the tabard of a hotel domestic. Curator Chiara Skurra finds such questions both meaningless and annoying, arguing instead that the sitter is clearly a self-regarding ponce and that nothing more need be said.
Franz Hals-Bals was born in 1582 or 1583 in Chickerell, then in the Somerset Protectorate. The son of cheese-maker Stilton Hals-Bals van Mechelen-Krackerbarrel-Emmental (c. 1542–1610) and his second wife Kurds van Waayh. Like many, Hals-Bals' parents had fled to Chickerell in the new Dorset Republic during the Siege of Alton Pancras (1584–1585). It was here that Franz lived for the remainder of his life, surviving on commissions from the local gentry. He became famously adept at surviving on peanuts. Hals-Bals studied under Cornish émigré Prothromos van Doorstuk, whose Mannerist influence is barely noticeable in his work. The artist is also known for his Portrait of a Woman in Labour - a remarkable piece, not least because it predates the establishment of the Labour Party by nearly 300 years and female emancipation within it by nearly 400 years. He died in 1666 after experimenting once too often with Dr Pfeiffer's Colonic Rejuvenator - a machine to which he had developed an unnatural affinity. At the insistence of his wife, it was buried with him.
Win a chance to visit the Dorset County Portrait Gallery and to see The Deeply Sceptical Professor for yourself.
Answer the following question and submit your answer [A, B or C] [online entries only] to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 noon on Friday 24 February.
Franz Hals-Bals's father was: [a] a cheese maker [b] a shirt-maker [c] a shirt-lifter