Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster) (c. July 28, 1609 – February 10, 1660) is the most famous female painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Leyster painted genre works, portraits, and still lifes. Her artworks were attributed to Frans Hals until 1893, when Hofstede de Groot first credited seven paintings to her, six of which are signed with her distinctive monogram 'JL’. Leyster was born in Haarlem as the eighth child of Jan Willemsz Leyster, a local brewer and clothmaker. While the details of her training are uncertain, she was already well known in 1628 to be mentioned in a Dutch book by Samuel Ampzing titled Beschrijvinge ende lof der stadt Haerlem. There is some speculation that Leyster pursued a career in painting as a result of her father's bankruptcy and the need to bring in funds for the family. She may have learned painting from Frans Pietersz de Grebber, who was running a respected workshop in Haarlem in the 1620s. During this time her family moved to the province of Utrecht and she may have come in contact with Utrecht Caravaggisti.
Her first known signed work is dated 1629, four years before entering the artist's guild. By 1633, she was a member of the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke, the second female painter to be registered there. There were more women active at that time as painters in Haarlem, but since they worked in family workshops they did not need the professional qualifications necessary to be able to sign works or run a workshop. Her Self-Portrait, c. 1633 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), has been proposed as her presentation piece to the Guild. This self-portrait historically marks a shift from the rigidity of earlier women's self-portraits in favor of a more relaxed, dynamic pose. In 1636, Leyster married Jan Miense Molenaer, a more prolific artist of similar subjects. In hopes of better economic prospects, they moved to Amsterdam, where he had existing clients. They remained there for eleven years before returning to the Haarlem area (in Heemstede). In Heemstede they shared a studio in a small house located on the grounds of the present day Groenendaal park. Leyster and Molenaer had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood. Most of Leyster's dated works are from 1629 to 1635, which coincides with the period before she married and had children. There are few known pieces painted after 1635, and she may have worked collaboratively with her husband as well. She died in 1660 at the age of 50.
oil on canvas
26.8 x 24.6 inches