Sara de Vos: The Two Women Behind the Fictional Artist

August 30, 2022

The fictional artist is based on two historical women, Judith Leyster and Sara van Baalbergen. They were the first women painters to be included in a Guild of St. Luke in the Netherlands during the 17th century. Both artists whose names were almost buried with them and forgotten as none of their works would have survived until one collector discovered Leyster's monogram on a Frans Hals painting in 1892.

In Dominic Smith's "The Last Painting of Sara de Vos", Sara's artwork, At the Edge of a Wood, was stolen and forged. Assumed to be the only surviving work of the 17th century artist, the painting was replaced with the one created by art history doctoral student, Eleanor "Ellie" Shipley. 

Sara is described as a still-life Dutch painter, facing gender stereotype in that era, and involved in art sale in the Netherlands as member of a painters' guild. Her daughter's death resulted in her family's financial predicaments until she finally gives up her craft and focused on domestic life.

[Marty de Groot] won’t mention that it’s the only surviving painting of Sara de Vos, the first woman to be admitted, in 1631, as a master to a Guild of St. Luke in Holland. And who could he tell that he liked to stare up at the girl’s pale and cryptic face while he made slow, contemplative love to his melancholic wife in the years after her second miscarriage?

Exerpt, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith

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