Dennis Weller also endorses an attribution of Boy peering into an earthenware tankard to Leyster. He most recently addressed the aforementioned series and the relationship between each painting in print, writing that while linked by theme, size, and general technique, each picture is certainly not by the same hand.2 Old photographs of all five suggest that they were in the collection of Arthur Kay around 1930. Weller attributes Hearing, Touch (both in the Phoenix Art Museum), and Smell (Cynthia von Bogendorf Rupprath collection) to Jan Miense Molenaer, Leyster's husband, and exhibited them as such in his recent exhibition on Molenaer (see Exhibited). He sees the present panel, however, as more clearly a work by Leyster from the 1630's, when both she and Molenaer shared a similar working method. He notes that Sight is one of the most accomplished of the group, while adding that it is unclear if all five were originally conceived as a group, or joined together at a later date.
The works of both Jan Miense Molenaer and Judith Leyster have been associated with Frans Hals as well as with the work of his younger brother, Dirck. Dirck Hals executed a number of paintings of The Five Senses--both as sets of individual paintings and several with the entire theme in a single painting. A full set of five paintings of the Five Senses, each signed and dated 1637 and each with three figures by Molenaer is in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. There is not an extant full set of the senses by Frans Hals or Judith Leyster although each of these artists painted works related to the theme.
That none of the five paintings in this set of the Five Senses is signed (by any artist) yields no information as many of Leyster’s works were unsigned. Of the forty-four autograph paintings listed in Frima Fox Hofrichter's catalogue raisonné, only twelve are signed, most to the 1630s, her most prolific period.
The ruff and open chemise of the boy depicted here are very similar to those in another unsigned panel by Leyster, A Young Violinist with skull, which Dr. Hofrichter dates to circa 1633 (Bristol, City Art Gallery see F. F. Hofrichter, Judith Leyster. Woman Painter in Holland's Golden Age, Doornspijk 1989, cat. no. 30 reproduced plate 30. The face and hands of the young violinist are also similar in handling to their equivalents in the present picture, and the neutral dark background of both pictures is characteristic of Leyster at this date. Furthermore, the brilliant red coloring, handling of the paint in the loose brushwork of the shirt, jug and fingers as well as the placement and angle of the body, suggest the work of Leyster.
The youth here is portrayed as a Kannekijker - literally a " can looker”- curiously and certainly hopefully, peering into his tankard to see if he has anything left to drink. This was a popular genre subject, especially in Haarlem where beer was a major commodity, and such a sighting of a young man may well have been typical. Leyster herself executed two works on this theme, a 1629 example in the Rijksmuseum (on loan to the Frans Halsmuseum) and a circa 1629 example on loan to the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen.
We are grateful to Dr. Frima Fox Hofrichter and Dennis Weller for their assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.
1. The series is discussed at some length in D.P. Weller, Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age, exhibition catalogue, Raleigh, N.C. 2002, cat. no. 3.
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