A painting tentatively attributed to Dutch painter Judith Leyster (1609-1660), whose entire body of work was misattributed up to 1893, has reached its original high estimate more than 125 times, leading to speculation that it may indeed be by hand. of the old master himself.
The work, painted about 1629 and depicting a laughing boy with grapes in his hat, sold on April 26 at an auction organized by Vanderkindere in Brussels. It was originally estimated to sell for a maximum of €1,800 ($1,900), but the work eventually sold for €230,000 ($242,600), a jump of nearly 200 percent.
Known today for her portraits, still lifes and genre paintings, Leyster was one of the few female painters to emerge during the Dutch Golden Age, when artists such as Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Pieter Claesz made their careers.
The daughter of a modest brewer, Leyster started painting at an early age after she became a member of the Haarlem painters’ guild in 1633, after which she came into contact with painters such as Hals.
Yet her association with him damaged her posthumous reputation after her work was misattributed to his work for decades. Many of her paintings, executed in the tenebristic style of the Utrecht school, were unsigned, and she was only rediscovered by Louvre officials in 1893 after a widely admired painting by Hals was realized to be her own.
Scholars realized their mistake when they discovered that Leyster’s monogram, JL, had been roughly changed into an interlocking FH, Frans Hals’ initials.
The confusion, or perhaps the deception, set art historians on a tortuous path to find more of Leyster’s artworks, and in a contemporary art market where everything old is new again, her paintings are predictably highly prized at auction.
In 2018 Christie’s London sold Happy company (c. 1629) for $2.3 million, quickly surpassing the artist’s previous auction record of $606,909, also set by Christie’s London just two years earlier.
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