Judith Leyster was a prominent female painter during the Dutch Golden Age, and one of only two women accepted as a master by Haarlem’s painters’ guild in the 17th century. One of her most notable works is her Self-Portrait, which has garnered acclaim for both its technical skill and content.
The painting depicts Leyster at her easel, taking a brief pause before finishing a portrait of a young violinist with a smile on his face. It is speculated that Leyster painted the self-portrait to present to the Guild. In this work, she looks directly at the viewer while painting, displaying her talent and confidence as an artist.
Leyster’s artistic output decreased substantially after marrying in 1636; she focused mainly on raising her children and managing her family’s business and properties. Tragically, after her death, all credit for her artistry was attributed to male artists who had likely copied or emulated Leyster’s style. The Self-Portrait marks an important historical shift toward more dynamic poses in women’s self-portraiture compared to earlier pieces.
Overall, Judith Leyster played an influential role in Dutch art history as an accomplished painter who discussed typical subjects like people playing music or going about their daily routines while also portraying herself with precision and purpose in several instances such as this stunning self-portrait.