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Rembrandt van Rijn, Young Woman Sleeping, a drawing


Height: 246.000 mm
Width: 203.000 mm

PD 1895-9-15-1279

    Rembrandt van Rijn, Young Woman Sleeping, a drawing

    The Netherlands
    Around AD 1654

    This is an unconventional type of portrait. It is both affectionate and yet not a precise likeness of the sitter. She can only be recognized in generalized terms as Hendrickje Stoffels (about 1626-63), Rembrandt's common-law wife. With the tip of the brush and only a few broad strokes he rapidly and skilfully outlined her sleeping body. He also used the white of the paper to create not just her form but also the atmosphere surrounding her. Above her head, a thin wash sets off her figure by suggesting the darkness of a corner of the room.

    The drawing can be compared in style and appearance to Rembrandt's painting of Hendrickje, A Woman Bathing in a Stream (National Gallery, London). In the painting, dated 1654, she wears a similar, loose-fitting garment. She may have been pregnant, as in 1654 Hendrickje, who had entered the artist's household by 1649, gave birth to their daughter Cornelia. She died in 1663 and was buried in the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, where Rembrandt was buried six years later.

    The study is drawn entirely with the brush in brown wash with some white bodycolour. This was an unusual technique for Rembrandt who mostly used pen or chalk in his drawings. It was both experimental for Rembrandt and is most appealing to the modern eye, and reminds us of oriental drawings made with the brush.

    M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

    M. Royalton-Kisch, Drawings by Rembrandt and his, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


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