Lot 1
  • 1

Jan Miense Molenaer

Estimate
200,000 - 300,000 USD
Sold
274,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Jan Miense Molenaer
  • An interior with a violinist
  • signed upper right with the artist's monogram: IML 
  • oil on panel

Provenance

Reginald T. Paget, QC, MP (1908-1990);
G.H. Edgar, Hambleden, Henley-on-Thames;
David Koetser, 1992. 

Exhibited

London, Leonard Koetser Gallery, Autumn Exhibition: Flemish, Dutch, and Italian Old Masters, 1966, no. 2;
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.

Literature

J. Welu & P. Biesboer, Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World, exhibition catalogue, Worcester 1993, pp. 298-301, cat. no. 32, reproduced p. 299, cited p. 84;
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. 

Catalogue Note

This spirited portrayal of a young violinist likely dates to the creative period of Molenaer’s early career.  Perfectly poised to play a note, the rosy-cheeked musician engages the audience with his expressive eyes and wide grin.  Here, Molenaer captures a moment in time and animates his portrait further with his vivid palette, loose brushwork, and subtle highlights—including those that define the delicate, curving edges of the violin as well as the carved ebony head at the end of the violin’s pegbox.  This work reflects the Haarlem tradition of depicting musicians and is characteristic of the 17th-century Netherlandish admiration for music.  It also highlights a contemporary fascination with the violin, a relatively new instrument in Northern Europe that proved to be a popular artistic motif.1 

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.

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