Portrait of a Boy with a Cat, a Red Hat and a Piece of Bread, Attributed to Judith LEYSTER

Attributed to Judith Leyster

Portrait of a boy with a cat, a red hat and a piece of bread

After 1629

Oil on canvas, 77.5x64cm


Judith Leyster was the second female member to be admitted to the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke, a prominent Dutch artist guild in the early 1600’s. Her work was clearly influenced by genre paintings created by noted Haarlem artist Frans Hals. She favored the same types of subjects and compositions, notably energetic genre scenes depicting one or two figures, often children. In addition to these compositions, Leyster also painted still lifes. Her father, Jan Willemsz, owned a brewery called the “Leyster” (lodestar), from which the family took its surname. Leyster’s family moved to Vreeland near Utrecht, and many have speculated that at this time she came under the influence of the Utrecht Caravaggisti. Nevertheless, the dramatic effects of indirect, artificial lighting that these painters typically employed are not entirely paralleled in any of her canvases. It seems more likely that the superficial similarities to the style of the Utrecht Caravaggisti came by way of the circle of painters around Frans Hals (Dutch, c. 1582/1583 – 1666) in Haarlem. No records survive to prove that Leyster studied with Frans Hals, but a number of her works show her to have been one of his closest and most successful followers. She also was influenced by the work of Frans’ brother, Dirck Hals (1591–1656). Should Leyster have been in either the De Grebber or Hals studios, it would have been prior to 1629, the year in which she starts to sign and date her paintings, and probably before 1627 she was working as an independent artist. In 1636 she married Jan Miense Molenaer (c. 1609/1610–1668). Leyster achieved a degree of professional success that was quite remarkable for a woman of her time. 

The paintings by Judith Leyster are exhibited in the Louvre Museum, Paris; the Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague; the National Gallery, London, UK; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Kremer Collection, The Hague, The Netherlands; the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany; the  Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

Judith Leyster is one of the major school successors of Frans Hals, which is stylistically also clearly seen in the present image. Anyway, they decided the Frans Hals tradition more accepted as Jan Miense Molenaer, to whom she was married since 1636th. In the painting there may possibly be a replica or repetition after the painting of Judith Leyster, which is privately owned and is known in the literature.

On the painting “Portrait of a Boy with a Cat, a Red Hat and a Piece of Bread” the boy is shown from below, evidently sitting elevated, in front of a dark background, drawing a semicircular, brown bow around his head. The boy sitting diagonally to the left, laughing, in his left arm he is holding a black and white cat, with his right hand he is holding a piece of bread down.


Private collection Amsterdam
Collection of Art-Life Projekt, Tallinn
Private collection, Switzerland


See John Nash, The age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, London, 1672.
See Whitney Chadweck, Women, art and society, London, 1997.
See Juliane Harms, Judith Leyster. Her life and her work, 1927.
Cf. Frimar Fox Hofrichter, Judith Leyster, woman painter in Holland’s golden age, Doornspejk, 1989.
Cf. Pieter Biesbor, Frans Hals und Harlems Meister der goldene Zeit, Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2008. (9408311)
RKD Study: Claus Grimm, ‘Frans Hals and his workshop’, 2023-2024, no. A4.2.10a


BRAFA 2016

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