Jan Miense Molenaer
- Jan Miense Molenaer
- An interior with a violinist
- signed upper right with the artist's monogram: IML
- oil on panel
G.H. Edgar, Hambleden, Henley-on-Thames;
David Koetser, 1992.
Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World, 19 September – 5 December 1993, no. 32;
New Orleans 1997, no. 31;
Baltimore 1999, no. 30;
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Judith Leyster, 1609-1660, 21 June – 29 November 2009, no. 9.
New Orleans 1997, pp. 76-78, cat. no. 31, reproduced p. 77;
Baltimore 1999, pp. 70-72, cat. no. 30, reproduced p. 71;
F.F. Hofrichter, Judith Leyster, 1609-1660, exhibition booklet, Washington D.C. 2009, pp. 8-10, reproduced in color p. 9, fig. 11.
The painting exhibits the influence of Frans Hals, one of the leading contemporary artists of the period known for his spirited portraits, and also displays Molenaer’s proclivity for an inclusion of wit and satire within his works.2 During the 17th century violinists were most often portrayed holding their bow in the French manner with the thumb under the bow’s hair, as this technique allowed for more spontaneous movement and carefree playing.3 In the Weldon painting, however, Molenaer’s musician uses the Italian grip, with his thumb placed between the hair and bow, and this technique allowed for the subtleties that characterized a more refined music. The contrast between the sophistication of the violinist's pose and his playful expression compels a questioning of the musician's skills. Such contrast would likely have provided the comic relief that so delighted contemporary audiences.
In 1636, Molenaer married Judith Leyster, a student of Frans Hals and a highly-acclaimed artist in her own right. The pair painted a number of musicians throughout their careers, and Molenaer's Violinist interestingly recalls a detail in one of Leyster’s most celebrated works, her Self Portrait dated to 1630 (National Gallery of Art, D.C., Inv. 1946.6.1). Upon her easel, Leyster paints a musician whose jovial countenance and instrument bear striking similarities with that of the present composition. While Leyster's violinist relates to her Merry Company (c. 1630, Private Collection), the similarity of this detail in Leyster's self portrait and Molenaer's musician is a charming element that links the works of the artistic couple.
1. The violin developed from the Italian stringed instrument called lira da braccio in the 16th century and found its way into the Netherlands by around 1600.
2. For further discussion on the comic elements within Molenaer's paintings, see M. Westermann, “Jan Miense Molenaer in the Comic Mode” in Worcester 1993, pp. 43-61.
3. Another variant of the current composition, now lost, portrays the violinist using the French grip. See Worcester 1993, p. 298, reproduced.