This Week In Sexist Art History: Judith Leyster And the Rapiness of Yore
It's been a banner week for Sexist History! First, we revisited an 1893 New York Times piece which informed us why children are the sexiest swimmers of all. Then, we wrote some Sexist History of our own and discovered why male models may inhabit sexism's final frontier. Now, for some Sexist Art History: Why we should give a shit about Judith Leyster, some painter lady who was born like 400 years ago.
Because even centuries after Leyster's death, Sexist Art Historians just didn't understand.
Leyster's work is currently on display at the National Gallery of Art, but as recently as 1893, nobody knew who this lady even was. So it was only about 100 years ago that the art world got to take a look at The Proposition (above), painted in 1631.
Pretty straightforward, right? Dude in the fur hat could not possibly by skeevier: he's inappropriately clutching at a blouse with one hand and offering up some precious coins with the other. Lady in the floor-length skirt, on the other hand, is a classic case of Asking For It: That sensual display of wrist! That awkwardly averted gaze! That mortified blush of the cheeks!
Wait, no, she's actually like, "I see that you are offering to pay me to fuck you. However, I'm more interested in keeping up my stitching. Also, shave your mustache."
And yet, despite the clear and obvious rapiness of this painting from 1631, Sexist Art Historians had trouble understanding just what it all meant—hundreds of years later!
Male art historians have commented on Leyster's The Proposition, 1631, as reflecting a "powerful image of temptation and resistance" and that the young woman's virtuousness "would appeal to men and attract many suitors," implying that Leyster's interest was more on the male market and less on reflecting a woman's discomfort with unwanted male attention.
Ah yes, we can all identify with the young woman who only decides not to prostitute herself to this particular specimen of unfortunate facial hair because she wants to be able to fuck other dudes in the future and not get paid for it.
I wonder how Leyster would respond to that particular interpretation:
Self Portrait, 1630: "Eat it, douchebags."