by Frans Hals
Alte Pinakothek, München
Mr van Heythuysen was a yarn merchant from Haarlem. His clothing, the sword with its silver handle and his proud posture show that in the Netherlands, merchants not only were rich, but walked with their heads as high as the nobility.
Dutch society of the 17th century was largely a bourgeois society with a protestant work ethic: God shows his favour by making you rich and successful - so whoever works hard and becomes rich is favoured by god and therefore at least equal to the nobility. The work ethic also shows in the dress colours which were often black for both ladies and gentlemen - black for serenity and seriousness. The colour code was generally adopted in the 19th century.
Spanish influence shows in the use of the circular neck ruff that was already
on the decline in other countries. As "millstone ruff", it could take
on extreme dimensions. Cf. Susanna