The proposition / The rejected offer | Judith Leyster | 1631
Judith Leyster developed his work during the Dutch Golden Age. She was focused on genre portraits and, among his characters, we find musicians and card players. The artist completed 35 paintings before getting married and, subsequently, quitting painting.
The proposition, also known as The rejected offer, is one of her most enigmatic paintings. We see two characters. A woman sews a fabric, sitting by a desk with a lamp. To her right, a man leans over and offers her money in coins.
The question we face when we look at the painting is to know what it means. The interpretation of The proposition was the subject of harsh debate between generations of art critics. On one hand, we have the classical position, which claims that the woman is a prostitute and the man to her side wants to hire her services. In favor of this view, it is claimed that the verb “to sew” in Dutch (“naaien”) is also used to refer to intercourse.
The other position says that the woman does not show herself suggestive or provocative and, therefore, can hardly be considered a sex worker. She dresses like a regular housewife, revealing only her face and hands. Feminists who proposed this interpretation, claim that the offering of money was an acceptable practice of courting at the time and that previous art critics, all men, missed the point of the painting.
Anyway, this is an excellent painting that combines the realism of seventeenth-century Dutch artists with the typical lighting of tenebrists such as Georges de la Tour.