What I love about this painting is how honest Judith Leyster is when detailing the realities of life in her time and in her city. Here, a young woman is pressured to enter into a relationship with a man she has no interest in. He clearly feels he has the right to compel her to sell her virtue, and she clearly ignores him. It is as if she refuses to notice him.
Male artists of the time, Leyster’s husband, Jan Meinse Molenaer included, rarely painted genre pictures of young women other than in taverns or other low-life situations. Commissioned portraits of noble and merchant class women they painted in great abundance, but simple, modest women of good virtue?
Rarely. They had to sell paintings to feed their families, and then as today, virtue did not sell all that well.
Leyster, on the other hand, had the talent and (because she was a woman) the freedom to paint whatever she wanted. After all, as long as she managed the house, made sure food was served, and raised the children, she could paint whatever moved her.
The artistic talent of women has been so disregarded historically that, despite her signature, her paintings and her talent were attributed (after her death) to her husband and to Franz Hals.
About the Painting (Via Wikipedia):
“The Proposition” is a genre painting of 1631 by Judith Leyster, now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, who title it “Man offering money to a young woman.” It depicts a woman, sewing by candlelight, as a man leans over her, touching her right shoulder with his left hand. He is offering her coins in his right hand, but she is apparently ignoring the offer and concentrating intently upon her sewing.
The man wears dark clothing, and the dark tones, as well as his shadow cast behind him and across his face from the angle of the candlelight, give him a looming appearance. In contrast, the woman is lit fully in the face by the candlelight and wears a white blouse.
It is an early work by Leyster, who was only 22 years old in 1631.
Also, From Wikipedia:
(The painting’s) most distinctive feature is how different it is to other contemporary Dutch and Flemish “sexual proposition” paintings, many falling into the Merry company genre. The convention for the genre, a common one at the time, was for the characters to be bawdy, and clearly both interested in sex, for money. The dress would be provocative, the facial expressions suggestive, and sometimes there would be a third figure of an older woman acting as a procuress. Indeed, in The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen, an example of the genre, that is exactly the case.
In contrast, in The Proposition the woman is depicted not as a whore but as an ordinary housewife, engaged in a simple everyday domestic chore. She isn’t dressed provocatively. She does not display her bosom (but rather her blouse covers her all of the way to her neck). No ankles are visible. She displays no interest in sex or even in the man at all.
Contemporary Dutch literature stated the sort of activity in which she is engaged to be the proper behaviour for virtuous women in idle moments. Kirstin Olsen observed that male art critics “so completely missed the point” that the woman is, in contrast to other works, not welcoming the man’s proposition that they mistakenly named the painting The Tempting Offer.
The foot warmer, whose glowing coals are visible beneath the hem of the woman’s skirt, was a pictorial code of the time, and represented the woman’s marital status. A foot warmer wholly under the skirt indicated a married woman who was unavailable, as it does in The Proposition. A foot warmer projecting halfway out from under the skirt with the woman’s foot visible on it indicated one who might be receptive to a male suitor. And, a foot warmer that is not under the woman at all, and empty of coals, indicated a single woman. This code can also be seen in Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Dou’s The Young Mother.
About the Artist:
Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster) (c. July 28, 1609– February 10, 1660) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She painted genre works, portraits, and still lifes. Her entire oeuvre was attributed to Frans Hals or to her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, until 1893 when Hofstede de Groot first attributed seven paintings to her, six of which are signed with her distinctive monogram ‘JL*’. Misattribution of her works to Molenaer may have been because after her death many of her paintings were inventoried as “the wife of Molenaer”, not as Judith Leyster.
She signed her works with a monogram of her initials “JL” with a star attached: JL* This was a play on words; “Leister” meant “Lead star” in Dutch and was for Dutch mariners of the time the common name for the North Star. The Leistar was the name of her father’s brewery in Haarlem.
(Only occasionally did she sign her works with her full name.)
She specialized in portrait-like genre scenes of, typically, one to three figures, who generally exude good cheer, and are shown against a plain background. Many are children; others men with drink. Leyster was particularly innovative in her domestic genre scenes. These are quiet scenes of women at home, often with candle- or lamplight, particularly from a woman’s point of view
Sources and Attributions:
Wikipedia contributors, “The Proposition (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Proposition_(painting)&oldid=851982429 (accessed February 1, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, “Judith Leyster,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Judith_Leyster&oldid=820769951(accessed February 1, 2019).
2 responses to “#FineArtFriday: The Proposition by Judith Leyster 1631 (revisited)”
The first thing I noticed in this painting is the menacing look on the man’s face… which tells me he’s up to no good..The woman couldn’t look more disinterested if she tried. Add the coins in his hand and the haunting feel of the background and the portrait earns its name.
How any man could look at this and come up with “The Tempting Offer” is beyond me. Shows you what men thought (think) of women.
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Amen, dear friend. I think he looks evil too. This painting is a real statement.
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