Master of the Female Half-Lengths

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Three Young Women Making Music with a Jester

The Master of the Female Half-Lengths was a painter, or likely a group of painters of a workshop, active in the sixteenth century. The name was given in the 19th century to identify the maker or makers of a body of work consisting of 67 paintings to which since 40 more have been added.

The works were apparently the product of a large workshop that specialized in small-scale panels depicting aristocratic young ladies at half-length. The ladies are engaging in various activities such as reading, writing, or playing musical instruments and are typically placed in a wood-panelled interior or against a neutral background. Some of the women are represented with an ointment jar, the attribute of Mary Magdalene. To the Master are also attributed a few paintings of mythological subjects and copies of standardized compositions such as the Crucifixion, the Deposition, the Virgin of Sorrows, St Jerome and Lucretia.[1]

There is no agreement on the Master’s identity and the place and period of his activity. Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen and the French court have been proposed for the location of his workshop. Estimates for his period of activity vary from the early to the late 16th century.[1] Generally, it is believed the master was active in the early 16th century.[2]

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Some art historian have argued that the artist must have worked in Antwerp or Mechelen in the 1520s and 1530s since the landscapes of the master are close to those of Joachim Patinir and the female types resemble those of Bernard van Orley.[1] Certain similarities between the Master's work and that of the Bruges artists Ambrosius Benson and Adriaen Isenbrant have also been observed.


  1. ^ a b c Hans M. Schmidt, et al. "Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 23 Feb. 2016
  2. ^ Master of the Female Half-Lengths at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)

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