Overview

Judith Leyster’s Self-Portrait exudes self-confidence in her abilities, and it has become one of the National Gallery of Art’s most popular Dutch paintings. Leyster has depicted herself at her easel, briefly interrupting work on a painting of a violin player to interact with the viewer. The momentary quality of the portrait and the vigorous brushwork echo the work of Frans Hals (c. 1582/1583–1666), Haarlem’s most celebrated portrait painter and Leyster’s colleague. By juxtaposing her hand holding a brush with the hand and bow of the violin player, Leyster cleverly compares the art of creating ephemeral music with the art of creating timeless paintings. She holds the tools of her trade—a palette, a cloth, and no fewer than eighteen brushes. In reality she would not have worn the elegant dress and lace-trimmed collar while at work in her studio.

Leyster entered into the Saint Luke’s Guild of Haarlem as an independent master in 1633. As a master in her own right, a rarity for a female artist at the time, Leyster established her own workshop and had paying students. Five years earlier, her proficiency and talent had already drawn public praise. A chronicler of Haarlem described Leyster, then only nineteen years old, as a painter of "good and keen insight." In the late 1640s, another city historian wrote that among the many women experienced in the field of painting, "one excels exceptionally, Judith Leyster, called ‘the true leading star’ in art." The compliment cleverly alludes to the artist’s family name, which means "lodestar." The artist herself incorporated a star in her professional signature, the monogram JL*. Following her marriage to fellow Haarlem artist Jan Miense Molenaer in 1636, Leyster stopped producing art in her own name but probably continued to paint in collaboration with, and in the workshop of, her husband.

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Possibly the painting identified as a painting by Frans Hals depicting his daughter at the easel that appeared in four London sales between 1810 and 1812.[1] E.M. Grainger, Hastings, Sussex; Mrs. Granger, Bexhil-on-Sea, East Sussex;[2] (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 16 April 1926, no. 115); purchased by E. Smith, probably for a London dealer.[2] private collection, New York, in 1928.[3] (Ehrich Galleries, New York); purchased 9 May 1929 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C.;[4] gift 1949 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1933
A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 64, as by Frans Hals.
1937
Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, John Herron Art Museum, Indianapolis, 1937, no. 22, as by Frans Hals.
1937
Frans Hals Tentoonstelling ter gelegenheid van het 75-jarig bestaan van het gemeentelijk Museum te Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, 1937, no. 9, repro., as by Frans Hals.
1937
Paintings by Frans Hals: Exhibition for the Benefit of New York University, Schaeffer Galleries, Inc., New York, 1937, no. 3, as by Frans Hals.
1988
People at Work: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, 1988, no. 11.
1993
Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, 1993, no. 7, repro.
1993
Judith Leyster: "Leading Star", National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., 1993-1994, brochure, color repro.
1999
Elck zijn waerom: Vrouwelijke kunstenaars in België en Nederland, 1500-1950 [As You Will: Women Artists in the Netherlands and Belgium, 1500-1950], Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp; Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem, 1999-2000, no. 34.
2001
Face to Face: Portraits from Five Centuries, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2001-2002, no. 35, repro.
2002
Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Indianapolis Museum of Art (Columbus Gallery); Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, 2002-2003, fig. 8 (shown only in Raleigh).
2003
Loan to display with permanent collection, National Gallery, London, 2003-2004.
2005
Self Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary, National Portrait Gallery, London; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005-2006, no. 11, repro.
2009
Judith Leyster, 1609-1660 [Judith Leyster's 400th Anniversary], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, 2009-2010, unnumbered brochure, cover repro.

Bibliography

1928
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Rediscovered Paintings by Frans Hals." Art in America 16 (1928): 238-247, repro.
1929
"Auktionsnachrichten." Kunst und Künstler July (1929): 412, repro.
1929
"Illustrierte Berichte." Pantheon 4 (July 1929): 337, 343, repro.
1930
Dülberg, Franz. Frans Hals: Ein Leben und ein Werk. Stuttgart, 1930: 41-42, repro.
1930
Gratama, Gerrit David. "Het Portret van Judith Leyster door Frans Hals." Oud Holland 47 (1930): 71-75, repro.
1933
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Art in the Century of Progress." The Fine Arts 20, no. 2 (June 1933): repro. 24.
1933
Rich, Daniel Catton. "Die Ausstellung ‘Fünf Jahrhunderte der Frühmalerei’ in Chicago." Pantheon 11 (January 1933): 380, repro.
1933
Rich, Daniel Catton, ed. A Century of Progress: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture. Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1933: no. 64, repro.
1937
"Hands by Frans Hals: Fine Examples of the Skill of a Master in Portraying an Elusive Feature." Illustrated London News (25 September 1937): 532, 534, repros.
1937
Frans Hals tentoonstelling ter gelegenheid van het 75-jarig bestaan van het Gemeentelijk Museum te Haarlem op 30 juni 1937. Exh. cat. Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, 1937: no. 9, repro.
1937
John Herron Art Institute. Dutch Paintings, Etchings, Drawings, Delftware of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat. John Herron Art Museum, Indianapolis, 1937: no. 22, repro.
1937
Rich, Daniel Catton. "Review of Wilhelm R. Valentiner's 'Frans Hals Paintings in America'." Art in America 25 (July 1937): 130–137.
1937
Schaeffer Galleries. Paintings by Frans Hals. New York, 1937: 3.
1937
Trivas, Numa S. "The Frans Hals Exhibition at Haarlem." Connoisseur 100 (November 1937): repro. 228, 229.
1963
Hall, H. van. Portretten van Nederlandse beeldende kunstenaars: Repertorium. Amsterdam, 1963: 187, nos. 2, 5.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 75.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 66, repro.
1970
Grimm, Claus. "Ein meisterliches Künstlerporträt: Frans Hals’ Ostade-Bildnis." Oud Holland 85 (1970): 146-178, repro.
1970
Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals. 3 vols. National Gallery of Art Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art. London, 1970–1974: 3(1974):152-153.
1971
Grimm, Claus. "Frans Hals und seine Schule." Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst 22 (1971): 146, 148, repro.
1973
Iskin, Ruth. "Sexual and Self-Imagery in Art: Male and Female." Womanspace Journal 1 (1973): 7.
1974
Montagni, E. C. L’opera completa di Frans Hals. Classici dell’Arte. Milan, 1974: 112-113, no. 249, repro.
1975
Munsterberg, Hugo. A History of Women Artists. New York, 1975: 26-27, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 194, repro.
1975
Tufts, Eleanor. Our Hidden Heritage: Five Centuries of Women Artists. New York, 1975: 71-72, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 287, no. 382, repro.
1976
Daniëls, G.L.M. "Doe heb ick uyt verkooren...." Antiek 11 (1976/1977): 336, repro. 340.
1976
Harris, Ann Sutherland and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists 1550-1950. Exh. cat. Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1976: 139.
1976
Montagni, E. C. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Frans Hals. Les classiques de l'art. Translated by Simone Darses. Paris, 1976: 112-113, no. 249, repro.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 50-51, pl. 27.
1983
Hofrichter, Frima Fox. "Judith Leyster's 'Self-Portrait': 'Ut Pictura Poesis." In Essays in northern European art presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann on his sixtieth birthday. Edited by Anne-Marie Logan. Doornspijk, 1983: 106-109, repro. nos. 1, 3.
1984
Raupp, Hans-Joachim. Untersuchungen zu Künstlerbildnis und Künstlerdarstellung in den Niederlanden im 17. Jahrhundert. Studien zur Kunstgeschichte. Hildesheim, 1984: 346-347.
1984
Sutton, Peter C. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Edited by Jane Iandola Watkins. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London. Philadelphia, 1984: 234-235, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 287, no. 376, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 227, repro.
1986
Mittler, Gene A. Art in Focus. Peoria, 1986: 260-261, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 309.
1987
Heller, Nancy G. Women Artists: An Illustrated History. New York, 1987: 213 n. 20.
1987
Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. New York, 1987: 415-416, repro. no. 196.
1988
Barnes, Donna R., and Linda Stone-Ferrier. People at Work: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat. Hofstra Museum, Hempstead, 1988: 40: 7-8, 23, no. 11, repro.
1988
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "The Art Historian in the Laboratory: Examinations into the History, Preservation, and Techniques of 17th Century Dutch Painting." In The Age of Rembrandt : studies in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Papers in art history from the Pennsylvania State University 3. Edited by Roland E. Fleischer and Susan Scott Munshower. University Park, Pennsylvia, 1988: 220; 236, fig. 9-19; 237, fig. 9-20, x-ray; 238, fig. 9-21, infra-red photo.
1989
Hofrichter, Frima Fox. Judith Leyster: A woman painter in Holland's Golden Age. Aetas aurea 9. Doornspijk, 1989: 15, 24, 51-53, no. 21, pls. 21, 55, 56, 57, color plate x.
1990
Grimm, Claus. Frans Hals: The Complete Work. Translated by Jürgen Riehle. New York, 1990: 238-239, fig. 127b (detail).
1992
Fiero, Gloria K. The Age of the Baroque and the European Enlightenment. The Humanist Tradition 4. Dubuque, 1992: 49-50, fig. 22.12.
1993
Silver, Larry. Art in History. New York, 1993: 24-25, fig. 1.9, repro.
1993
Welu, James A., and Pieter Biesboer. Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World. Exh. cat. Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem; Worcester Art Museum. Haarlem, 1993: 21, 47, 71, 83, 85, 95-96, 103-105, 119, 162-167, 305, no. 7, repro.
1993
Welu, James A., and Pieter Biesboer. Judith Leyster: Schilderes in een Mannenwereld. Exh. cat. Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. Zwolle, 1993: 21, 47, 71, 83, 85, 95-96, 103-105, 119, 162-167, 305, no. 7, repro.
1994
Balken, Debra Bricker. "Dutch Master Recovered." Art in America (May 1994): 97-99, repro.
1994
Hofrichter, Frima Fox. Judith Leyster: ‘Leading Star'. Exh. brochure. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, 1994: unpaginated repro.
1994
Satapen, Nancy. "Who Art the Women Old Masters?" Art News 93 (March 1994): 87-94, repro.
1994
Springer, Julie. "Women, Power, and Empowering Imagery." Art Education 47, no. 5 (September 1994): 27-29, repro.
1994
Sutton, Peter C. "Dutch Treat: Review of 'Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World.'" New York Review of Books 41, no. 4 (17 February 1994): 31-33, repro.
1994
Thorborg, Lia. "Judith Leyster, meester-schilder uit de Gouden Eeuw." Reader’s Digest (October 1994): 80-85, repro.
1995
Fiero, Gloria K. The Age of the Baroque and the European Enlightenment. The Humanistic Tradition 4. 2nd ed. Madison, 1995: 56, fig. 22.12.
1995
Fleming, William. Arts & Ideas. 9th ed. Fort Worth, 1995: 441, 443 fig. 15.3..
1995
Huntley, Merle. Art in Outline 2: From Rock Art to the Late 18th Century. Oxford, 1995: 185, repro.
1995
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995: 788, fig. 19-47.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 155-159, color repro. 157.
1996
Westermann, Mariët. A Worldly Art: the Dutch Republic, 1585-1718. New York, 1996: 159, 161, fig. 117, repro.
1997
Mittler, Gene A., and Rosalind Ragans. Understanding Art. New York, 1997: 181, fig. 12-5a.
1997
Muller, Sheila D. Dutch art: an encyclopedia. Garland reference library of the humanities 1021. New York and London, 1997: 222-223, fig. 75.
1998
Codell, Julie F. "Artists/Art." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:60-61, 65, repro.
1998
Fiero, Gloria K. Faith, Reason and Power in the Early Modern World. The Humanist Tradition 4. 3rd ed. New York, 1998: no. 22.12, repro.
1998
Helene E. Roberts, ed. Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:808-809.
1998
Huet, Leen, and Jan Grieten. Oude meesteressen: vrouwelijke kunstenaars in de Nederlanden. Leuven, 1998: 134-145, fig. 6.
1998
Matthews, Roy T., and F. DeWitt Platt. The Western Humanities. 3rd ed. Mountain View, California, 1998: no. 14.19, repro.
1998
Self-Portraits II: Women." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:808
1999
Mittler, Gene A. Introducing Art. New York, 1999: 80, fig. 5-1.
1999
Stighelen, Katlijne van der, and Mirjam Westen. Elck zijn waerom: vrouwelijke kunstenaars in België en Nederland 1500-1950. Exh. cat. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp; Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem. Antwerp, 1999: 158-162, no. 34, repro.
1999
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. 2 vols. Revised ed. New York, 1999: 2:786-787, fig. 19-43.
2000
Heller, Nancy. Women artists: works from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. New York, 2000: 27, repro.
2000
Kirsh, Andrea, and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing through paintings: physical examination in art historical studies. New Haven, 2000: 182-183, figs. 190-193, repro.
2000
Mittler, Gene A. Art in Focus. 4th ed. New York, 2000: 436, repro.
2000
Savedoff, Barbara E. Transforming Images: How Photography Complicates the Picture. Ithaca, 2000: 12-15, repro.
2000
Weller, Dennis P. Like Father, Like Son? Portraits by Frans Hals and Jan Hals. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 2000: fig. 4.
2002
Cavalli-Björkman, Görel, and Eva-Lena Karlsson. Face to Face: Portraits from five centuries. Exh. cat. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2002: 98, 104, 117-118, no. 35, repro.
2002
Weller, Dennis P. Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Currier Museum of Art, Manchester. Raleigh, 2002: 16, fig. 8.
2003
Hofrichter, Frima Fox. "A Light in the Galaxy: Judith Leyster." In Singular Women: Writing the Artist. Edited by Kirsten Frederickson and Sarah E. Webb. Berkeley, 2003: 36-47, fig. 2.
2003
Nakamura, Toshiharu. Dutch art in the age of Frans Hals from the collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. Exh. cat. Niigata Kenritsu Bandaijima Bijutsukan; Toyohashi-shi Bijutsu Hakubutsukan; Sakura Shiritsu Bijutsukan. Tokyo, 2003: 115, fig. 4, repro.
2004
Droz-Emmert, Marguerite. Catharina van Hemessen: Malerin der Renaissance. Basel, 2004: 148-151, fig. 28.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 194-195, no. 154, color repro.
2004
"Three loans from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC." The National Gallery Review (2004): 24-25, repro.
2005
Bond, Anthony, and Joanna Woodall. "Judith Leyster: Self-Portrait." In Self portrait: Renaissance to contemporary. Exh. cat. National Portrait Gallery, London; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. London, 2005: 104-105, no. II, repro.
2005
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Rev. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 766, color fig. 19.52.
2006
Kleinert, Katja. Atelierdarstellungen in der niederländischen Genremalerei des 17. Jahrhunderts: realistisches Abbild oder glaubwürdiger Schein?. Petersberg, 2006: 48-49, fig. 18.
2007
Janson, Horst W., and Penelope J. E. Davies. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. 2 vols. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2007: 714-715, repro.
2009
Hofrichter, Frima Fox. Judith Leyster (1609-1660). Exh. brochure. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2009: 1, repro.
2013
Beyer, Andreas. "Bilder der Frauen." Weltkunst 78 (Oktober 2013): 30, color fig.

Conservation Notes

The support, a plain-woven fabric with numerous slubs and weave imperfections, has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed. A large horizontal rectangle of original canvas is missing from the bottom left in an area corresponding to the red skirt, and has been replaced with a fine-weight, tightly woven fabric insert. The X-radiographs show cusping along all edges except the insert, which is also bereft of original paint or ground layers.

A smooth, thin, white ground layer was applied overall and followed by a gray brown imprimatura layer. Paint handling varies from fluid paint applied in loose liquid strokes in the black peplum to thicker pastes blended wet-into-wet in the flesh tones. White cuffs were applied wet-over-dry above the thinly scumbled purple sleeves, and red glazes were laid over opaque pink underpaint in the original passages of the red skirt.

An infrared photograph and infrared reflectography at 1.1 to 1.4 microns[1] reveal a major change in the easel painting, which originally showed a woman’s head, with parted lips, turned slightly to the left, which is now partially visible as a pentimento. With the exception of the loss in the lower left, actual paint losses are few: small losses in the top at center and in the proper left cheek. The paint surface, however, is in relatively poor condition, with minute pitting throughout of the type caused by superheating during a lining procedure. This is exacerbated by moderate abrasion overall, and flattening. The unfinished violin player on the easel is heavily abraded.

The painting was treated in 1992 to remove discolored varnish layers and old inpainting. The later insert was retained.

 

[1] Infrared reflectography was performed with a Santa Barbara Focalplane InSb camera fitted with a J astronomy filter.

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