Long-Lost Self-Portrait by Dutch Master Judith Leyster Discovered in English Estate

The masterpiece by the ‘greatest female painter' hung in a country house for centuries.

Judith Leyster, Portrait of the Artist. Courtesy Christie's.

A late portrait by Dutch master Judith Leyster, known as the greatest female artist in history, has been discovered in the collection of an English country estate.

Leyster, who was asked to join the famous Haarlem Guild, was well being respected as a painter before she married the artist Jan Miense Molenaer, who was less talented than she was, and gave up painting to raise her five children.

Twenty years later, the artist returned to painting and made this self-portrait. In contrast to her only other known self-portrait—which shows Leyster painting, smiling and looking directly into the eyes of the viewer— this later work shows an older, more serious woman looking confidently at the viewer, with the same unstinting gaze.

Christie’s London handled the sale of the work, which fetched £485,000 ($593,883) at the Old Masters Evening Sale that took place on December 8, leaving Christie’s expert Alexis Ashot thrilled.

“She is the better artist but because he is the man she gives it up. That is a great tragedy for the history of art,” Ashot told the Times.

The painting has been authenticated by art historian Frima Fox Hofrichter, who told the Times: “I have been looking for this picture my whole life.”

“It is a painting on a much smaller scale, more intimate, on panel rather than canvas,” Ashot said of the new discovery, thought to not have been created to be sold. “She is painting it for her family.”

The painting was discovered by Christie’s experts hired to value the contents of the unnamed country house.

The long-lost treasure had been hanging in the house for centuries, its owners oblivious to its value and historical significance.

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