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ONE FLESH… TWO (WISE) FOOLS: Evidence for Artistic Collaboration Between Judith Leyster and Jan Miense Molenaer in Four Festive Paintings
by K.A. Cloutier-Blazzard
It is generally assumed that the seventeenth-century Dutch artists Jan Miense Molenaer (c.1610–1668) and Judith Leyster (1609–1660) worked collaboratively, both before and after their wedding in 1636. This paper examines the broader concept of artistic collaboration as intellectual endeavor by Molenaer and Leyster, focusing on four thematically-related comic paintings from before their marriage: Leyster’s slightly earlier The Merry Company and The Last Drop of 1629–1631, and Molenaer’s smaller set of 1634, The Battle of Carnival and Lent and Twelfth Night. These festive pictures have not yet been fully considered in relation to each other, perhaps because some scholars have questioned identifying these paintings as directly paired within the artists’ oeuvres. There are many valid reasons for seeing them as companion works, however, not least of which is that all four paintings share a common theme: they link the two central festivals of the Christian liturgical calendar—Christmastide and Eastertide. In European popular culture the two are bound together by an entire socially-leveling carnival season that runs from early December through Mardi Gras or Vastenavond, six weeks before Easter. In their related paintings, Leyster and Molenaer depict carnival celebrations in juxtaposition to the complementary end of those festivities with the advent of Lent. These works share an overlooked theme of ecumenical Christian humanism and an abiding form of seriocomical philosophy that was burgeoning in select humanist circles of Haarlem and beyond at this time.
Text copyright 2012 Kimberlee A. Cloutier-Blazzard