Fine Art Restoration and The Curious Case of A Leyster Forgery

Sometimes the beauty of the art is found in the eye of the observer and sometimes the true story is hidden within it. Such is the case of Judith Leyster’s The Jolly Companions (Carousing Couple). Here is how fine art restoration reinvigorated the art world in 1892 and revealed a tale of a lord’s deceit and forgery.

Why Is Judith Leyster A Renowned Artist?

As a Dutch artist, Leyster was one of the first women to join the Haarlem Painters’ Guild in 1633. As it was when women could not legally hold public office, her art is thought to be an early reflection of feminism. Her easy brushstrokes and casual quirks also vividly capture the ordinary locals’ merrymaking.

Of course, some art critics called her work nothing but displays of feminine weakness and copycats of Frans Hals, which is what started the legal debacle, to begin with. Women did not join guilds or display unladylike traits in art. Hals could and did, so it must have been a shock to discover JL was a woman.

The Curious Case Of The Judith Leyster Forgery

In 1892, the Louvre purchased what it thought was a piece by Frans Hals, a leading painter at the Haarlem Guild. As Leyster went on to marry and have five children, her works likely were lost to history. The Louvre, however, restored it and discovered a star and initials, her signature for the paintings she made.

This discovery led to a famous lawsuit in which the Louvre accused the previous owner of adding Frans Hals name over Leyster’s unique monogram. The Jolly Companions (AKA Carousing Couple) was sold to Sir Luke Schaud who resold it to London’s Wertheimer of Bond Street for $4500 ($134,355.16).

The art piece was then authenticated by Sir John Millars. The art dealer then sold the oil painting to a firm that then sold it in Paris to Baron Schlichting. The buyer was unsure of who forged it as a Hans painting, so he filed a court case in England and later settled in 1893 for $4000 (75% valuation and his court fees).

If not for the lordly court drama, the world would likely have never known Judith Leyster. The case prompted a Dutch historian to seek out her work. Cornelis Hofstede de Groot also wrote about her art in 1893 after seven of her oil paintings were found, in which six of them carried her signature monogram.

What would a great fine art restoration forgery scandal be without more falsification? Another The Jolly Companions popped up in Brussels in 1890. Her monogram had simply been distorted into an FH as the unknown forger also attributed it to Han’s work. His work was valuable, so in that lies the why of it all.

Why Do I Need Fine Art Restoration?

Although Leyster painted in the early 1600s, some of her oil paintings are still on the art market today. Because the materials like wood paneling ages, fine art restoration is a surety after four centuries. Such is the case for many period painters, which is why fire art restoration is needed to preserve their narratives.

We highly advise you to consult with our office about fine art restoration before buying art that needs work. Call us at 617-948-2577 or visit us on Facebook at