(b. 1609, Haarlem, d. 1660, Heemstede)

Carousing Couple

Oil on canvas, 68 x 54 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Judith Leyster is one of the very few women to have been accepted as a member of the Haarlem Guild of Painters. Although a contemporary historian described her as a leading light in art (punning on her name Leyster, which means "lodestar") she remained unknown for a long time and her works were either believed lost, or were attributed to Frans Hals. She probably worked in his studio around 1630 and was also a friend of his family, for one year later she became godmother to Hals' daughter Maria.

Like Hals at the same time, the young Leyster adopted the style of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, with their strong chiaroscuro modelling in the manner of Caravaggio. From the mid-1620, she concentrated more on vividly illuminated genre scenes, generally featuring half figures of merry musicians, gamblers and whores, strongly influenced by the painting of Terbrugghen and Honthorst.

While the Utrecht school of painters still rounded the surfaces of their objects smoothly between light and shade, Hals and his school adopted a broad, vibrant and independent brushstroke. Leyster's work can be distinguished from that of Hals through her generally more discordant handling of colour, her sketchier treatment of hands, the wryly distorted smiles of her figures and her altogether flightier brushwork.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.