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“Self-Portrait with Porta-Palette™”

Judith Luster

One of the few female artists in the 17th century Netherlands, Luster was best known not so much for her artwork , but for her invention of the Porta-Palette™, a boon for nearsighted painters. This clever device, which clipped loosely around the neck allowing it to rotate, made color mixing a breeze and freed one hand for other purposes. Frans Hals, a contemporary of Luster's, was effusive in his praise of her modest, but supremely useful invention, claiming it knocked 3 full days off the execution of a portrait. 

Her paintings, however, were another story. They were too avant-garde for Dutch tastes of the time, and even the French and Italian Academies rejected her work as pre-modernistic. Her portrait of Pope Urban VIII, for instance, shown here on the easel, was only paid for by the Vatican to keep it out of the hands of Protestants, although the sum paid was far less than had been asked. Luster shrugged off these criticisms, saying that if the cost of canvas and paint was covered, plus a few extra guilders, she was happy. "It brings home the bacon," was one of her frequent remarks.

Luster's other works, including "Screaming Maiden", "Portrait with Dissolving Face", and "Young Boy with Creative Disfigurements" are in private hands.

Eventually the artist gave up painting altogether and opened a mail-order art-supply business, which flourished until her death in 1660 of metastasizing ennui.


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