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Judith Leyster
1609-1660

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Judith Leyster (also known as Leijster) was the most renowned Dutch female artist of the Baroque era.  She specialized in portraits, still lifes and genre scenes (scenes of common people and everyday life), and is often associated with the Dutch painter Frans Hals.  

Leyster was born into a non-artistic family in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Some art historians believe she studied with a local portrait painter, Frans Pietersz de Grebber, who also trained his own daughter to paint.  Others claim that she was a pupil of Frans Hals, in whose studio in Haarlem she worked around 1630-1631, and whose style she followed.  She was definitely a friend of the Hals family, because in 1631 she became godmother to Halsí daughter Maria. Their friendship was later broken, as it is known that she successfully sued Hals for a breach of ethics after he took on one of her students. 

When she was in her mid-twenties, Leyster became the only female member of the Haarlem painters' guild and created her Self-Portrait about 1635 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), as a presentation piece to the guild. The eighteen paint brushes Leyster holds in this work convey a confident and self-assertive image of the artist. The stamp is part of the sheet "Tien Uit de Kunst", issued by The Netherlands in 1999 as a philatelic showcase of Dutch painting in the 17th century. 
 
The Netherlands 1999. Judith Leyster. Self-portrait.
  • The Netherlands 1999.  Judith Leyster:  Self Portrait, c. 1635.  Belongs to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. 

  • Humoristic postcard (private issue), showing the stamp above inserted in a scenery -- probably imagining Leyster's studio -- where the artist is standing on a chair, while painting with some youths playing around. 
    "Grafitti, Art Unlimited", Amsterdam. 

Judith Leyster. Humoristoc postcard with Leyster's self-portrait.

Click here to see the card full size. The link will open in a new window. Many thanks to Mr. Henk Burgman for providing this card :-)

Many of Leyster's paintings depict musicians, such as " The Flute Player" shown here  (date unknown, belongs to the National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden). It is a lovely painting, that really shows the emotions and dedication of the young musician playing his instrument.  The violin in the background suggests that he is auditioning for membership of an orchestra.  

The difference between light and darkness is distinct, as the sunlight hits the boy's face and one of his hands, and shows that the artist already in her young age mastered the chiaroscuro, the typical Baroque technique, that also made Vermeer so important for his time.

  • Rwanda 1974.  Judith Leyster:  "The Flute Player". 

Rwanda 1974. Judith Leyster. "The Flute Player".

Judith Leyster. "The Proposition", or "Man Offering Money to a Young Woman".

One of her most original and frequently discussed images is the genre scene known as  "The Proposition" or "Man Offering Money to a Young Woman" (1631, Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands). 

This painting depicts a modestly dressed woman, sewing by candlelight and ignoring the attentions of an older man in a fur hat who is offering her gold coins. 

The image shows particular sensitivity to the vulnerability of unmarried women. In her early works, the young Leyster, like Hals, followed the style of the Utrecht Caravagisti. However, her later portraits and genre scenes were strongly influenced by the painting of Terbrugghen and Honthorst.

Most of Leyster's authenticated works were painted between 1633 and 1636, the year she married another Haarlem painter, Jan Miense Molenaer. The couple relocated to the larger city of Amsterdam, where it appears that she resided for the rest of her life. She bore three children, but, as is typical for female artists of her era, her artistic activity appears to have ceased after her marriage, and only one painting by Leyster survives from this later period.  Leyster died in Heemstede in 1660.  

In spite of her successful professional career not many stamps showing her works have been issued. Other than the two stamps shown on this page, only one more has been issued by Columbia in 1980.  

Sources and links:

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