Moth to Cloth

Moth to Cloth


Throughout the world, silk is used to make cloth and associated with wealth and status, but this rare, natural fiber is also indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. Silk was traded between African peoples across the continent and was also imported from Europe, India, China, and the Middle East. This installation of cloths drawn from the DMA permanent collection explores the production of silk and silk textiles in Ghana, Nigeria, and Madagascar.



Hals is known for his distinctive technique of loose, animated brushstrokes that convey the vitality of the sitter’s personality. Use the sliders below to see the difference a decade makes.

Olycan’s bushy hair was painted in short, quick dabs of white and gray paint, applied wet-on-wet (the paint was not allowed to dry between layers, thus the brushstrokes mixed into one another).

In both portraits, Hals constructed Olycan’s face in bold planes of pure color. Consider how less blended the colors are in the earlier portrait.

During this decade, Hals adopted a darker color palette. He used much more black in the later portrait.

In the decade between these two works’ completion, the artist’s technique became more controlled. Notice the number of thin brushstrokes he used to create the beard in his later portrait.

The sitter’s ruff was painted in bold strokes of white. It becomes almost abstract when seen up close, but from a distance the brushwork gives the illusion of volume.


  • Listen


    Hear curator Julien Domercq discuss Frans Hals and what you can discover in these side-by-side portraits of Pieter Jacobsz. Olycan.

  • Create


    A twist on the #10YearChallenge: find a photo of yourself from 10 years ago and do your best to recreate…

  • Watch


    See Anna Tummers, curator of old masters at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, and director Karel Schampers talk about…

Virtual Exhibition Talk: Frans Hals, Style, and Individuality

Watch art historian Dr. Christopher Atkins discuss the work of Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals and two portraits of the same sitter completed 10 years apart.


From the individual strands of hair on Olycan’s head to the calligraphy-like swirls of Olycan’s ruff, Hals’ technique is bold.

– Kimberly Richard, NBC DFW