Judith Leyster Paints Self-Portrait

The show’s centerpiece, a self-portrait from 1632-33, is a delight, lively and ingratiating.

Leyster turns away from a half-finished canvas to greet the viewer, resting an arm on the back of her chair and delivering a wide, crooked grin. The warmth of this gesture seems at odds with the stiffness and impracticality of her attire, which includes long cuffs and a lace-edged collar wider than her palette.

Even the position of the arms [in the portrayal of women]--which needed to be close to the body--was significant. This Self-Portrait of the 17th century artist Judith Leyster was daring, for she painted herself in a very relaxed, casual pose with her painting arm balanced on the chair. As late as the 18th century, the woman's pose was still crucial: she "could not show [her] teeth, could not show [her] hair unbound, could not gesticulate, and certainly could not cross her legs"