For a year or so this was my favourite painting depicting the Dutch styles of the 1520s. I had it as my wall-paper at work, and through looking at daily would notice new details about the dresses in the painting. I especially liked the black and red dress and also had plans to make the blue one. At the same time I was also in the process of making a coat based on the picture to the right by van Leyden. A picture which was also apparently called “the Card Players”
Originally I had only a black and white image of the second painting and I desperately wanted to know the colour of the coat in the bottom left hand corner of the painting. While endlessly searching for a colour image of the painting on the right I came across an article which contested the dating of the painting that I had come to know as the “Card Players” by Lucas van Leyden. This essay, which can be found here explains that particular picture was probably painted by a follower of van Leyden sometime during the period 1550-1559. It’s listing in the National Gallery or Art, Washingtonalso lists the painting as “after Lucas van Leyden”, 1550/1599.
Once I realised that the first painting was not attributed to Lucas van Leyden it was easy to see the difference in style. If you look at the paintings of van Leyden (there are many scattered through this site, as well as listed in the resources page) then you will see that the “Card Players” is not of the same style. The colours are much clearer and contain more white than the colours that van Leyden typically uses. The face and body shapes are different, van Leyden’s faces are more oval, and his female bodies are slimmer. If you look at the shoulder of the woman in blue at the back of the first painting then you will notice that the line of the shoulder is very different, more rounded and horizontal than the shoulders that van Leyden paints. The composition of the paintings are different, there is more space in the background of the painting and the figures are not a squashed together. There is also more distance between the viewer and the subject.
According to Smith there is a general problem with the attribution of van Leyden’s paintings (Smith: ix). Until recently many works were attributed to van Leyden that werer either poorer copies of his paintings, paintings done in a similar style to van Leyden, or paintings by other artists based on his prints. This was the result of van Leyden’s fame as a Netherlandish painter, so much so that any unknown Netherlandish work was attributed to him. It was not until the late 19th century that the re-examination of van Leyden’s work began. This resulted in the reattribution of some works previously believed to have been painted by van Leyden, one of which was the painting above.
From this I have drawn the following conclusions: the blue dress that is shown in this picture is not accurate. I have seen nothing like it in anything from this period. Instead it appears that the person who painted this picture took the styles of the 1520s (wide square necks)and then added the styles of the later burgundians (an example of this is the Donne Triptych with the girl kneeling by Hans Memling) to come up with a style of dress that was “old”.
Smith, Elise Lawton, “The Paintings of Lucas van Leyden: A new appraisal, with Catalogue Raisonne”, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1992. ISBN:0-8262-0824-X”