Candlelight scene of a boy and a girl with a violin and a flute.
Oil on canvas, 66,4 x 48,6 cm.
Signed on the barrel with a monogram JMM .
C.J. Palmers, Kent;
Christie’s, London, 20-06-1913 lot 69 as “Judith Leyster” (350 gns. to Lippmann);
Adolph Hirsch, London;
by descent to his grandson George Pinto (1929-2018)
Jan Miense Molenaer was born in Haarlem in 1610 or 1611 as the son of the tailor Jan Mientsen Molenaer and his second wife Grietgen Adriaens. He is traditionally listed as one of the many pupils of Frans Hals (1582/83-1666), but most of his artistic training he probably received in the studio of another Haarlem artist - maybe Frans Pietersz de Grebber - who left his mark by giving him a thorough, purely traditional training in oil painting. The free, sketchy style of painting of Frans Hals apparently did not suit Molenaer, but in composition and subject matter and in the pose and gestures of his figures he certainly received inspiration from Frans Hals’ genre pieces of the 1620s. More than Frans Hals and Dirck Hals, Molenaer is an inventive storyteller illustrating the current themes of that moment playing a role in Haarlem society as a result of the preachings of the calvinist ministers. They stressed the importance of good moral-ethical behaviour and of making the right choice for a virtuous way of life as was illustrated in emblem books and contemporary prints.
The behaviour of the boy and girl in the present painting is far from exemplary. They show no discipline and no restraint in their merriment. They have loosened their garments and their music making has a double meaning. The violin and the flute are a hidden reference to love making and the broken jug implies the danger of the loss of virginity. Clearly they have not been educated properly by their parents and have escaped their attention. Of course they are much too young to make love, but by their free behaviour they are meant to send out a message of warning to educate your children well. The foot warmer on which the boy rests his left foot gives away the erotic implications of their duet.
Though bound by the choice of his subjects to the genre pictures of his contemporaries Frans Hals, Dirck Hals, Willem Buytewech and Judith Leyster, Molenaer was able to assert his presence on Haarlem’s art market at that time with his superb technique and feeling of texture for all the materials, but most of all by his lively, amusing storytelling. In no time his works were very much in demand and with much success he set up a flourishing studio production. He soon realised the limitations of the art market in Haarlem and after his marriage to Judith Leyster in 1636, he choose for a larger and much more diverse art market in Amsterdam and moved his studio there. His production became more and more commercial which affected the originality and quality of his paintings. However, his work from his early career in Haarlem did not suffer from that routine treatment. Far from it, it stands out by its fresh original approach to the traditional Haarlem genre themes and the excellent quality of his painterly technique, such as we can see in this delightful scene of a boy and a girl with a violin and a violin by candlelight.