Master of the Female Half-Lengths

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Isabel of Portugal at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Master of the Female Half-lengths, Three Young Women Making Music with a Jester

The Master of the Female Half-Lengths was a Netherlandish painter, perhaps a group, working in the area of Antwerp in the first half of the sixteenth century. He, or they, appears to have trained in Joachim Patinir's workshop in that city. Rather than being a single artist, it is believed that the Master was actually a studio, specializing in small panel paintings of young aristocratic ladies. The subjects were in half-length and devotional scenes, hence the name. They are engaged in various pursuits, such as reading, writing, and playing musical instruments; the interiors in which they are depicted usually are panelled in wood, although sometimes the backdrop is neutral. Some are shown with a jar of ointment, traditionally a symbol of Mary Magdalene.

Although the Master was based in Antwerp, similarities have been seen between his work and that of the Bruges artists Ambrosius Benson and Adriaen Isenbrant. There is a painting by this painter in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri ("Penitent Saint Jerome in Wilderness").


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