Judith Leyster: The Merry Drinker (1630); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
This merry drinker is one of the finest works of the Haarlem painter Judith Leyster (1609-1660). She was a very talented artist and probably a pupil of her famous fellow townsman Frans Hals. The influence of Hals is clearly visible in her choice of subject, but even more recognizable in the rough, vivid brushwork.
Leyster was not only one of the few female painters we know from the Golden Age; she was also officially registered, since 1633, as a master painter. That made her the first woman with that title, not just in the Netherlands, but even - as far as I know - worldwide. Being awarded the title of master by the guild was not only an honor, but also a professional qualification that gave certain rights, such as being allowed to train pupils and to own and manage your own studio.
Leyster was not so modern, though, that she pursued her career at all costs. After her marriage in 1636 with fellow artist Jan Miense Molenaer, with whom she had five children, she produced hardly any work. But during the preparations, several years ago, for a Judith Leyster retrospective at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, one surprising exception surfaced: a lovely floral still life from 1654, hidden in the collection of a private collector.