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print / drawing

Self-portrait in a soft hat and embroidered cloak; completed to bust-length, with arch.  1631  Etching, touched with black chalk


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • UnknownUnknown
  • Full: FrontFull: Front

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1842,0806.134

Additional IDs
1973,U.789 (The original register number and provenance were first published in Exh. London, 1992 (see Curator's Comment). Records of them had gone astray because the sheet had never been marked with an inventory number. As a result it was stamped with the number 1973,U.789 in a campaign to furnish all items in)

Bibliographic reference
Hinterding et al. 2000 13.II
Hind 1923 54.II
Benesch 1973 57
Royalton-Kisch 2010 7.1 (Rembrandt)
White & Boon 1969 7.II
New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 90.II (Rembrandt)

D+F XVIIc Mounted Roy

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Object types
print (all objects)
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
etching (scope note | all objects)
drypoint (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Print made by Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Self-portrait of Rembrandt, in a soft hat; head only; depicting an embroidered cloak, completed to bust-length, within arch; second state before body with shading added to hat and contour of brim strengthened. 1633-1634
Etching, completed in black chalk and touched in pen and brown ink; at top only, the remnants of a framing line in graphite.
Verso: see Inscriptions.
No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed recto, by the artist in black chalk, left: ‘ÆT.24 [corrected from 27]. / Anno.1631.’, and lower right, ‘Rembrandt’; an indecipherable number in graphite, top right. Verso: graphite, top centre: ‘M-52—II/ Touched/ 2’ (nineteenth century); top right, in graphite: ‘128’.

Height: 133 millimetres
Width: 120 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 21/22mm apart)

Worn at top corners and slightly rubbed; the fragmentary framing line suggests that the sheet has been trimmed, as does the fact that the etching plate was larger than the present sheet (see further under Curatorial Comment).

Curator's comments
For comment see also 1848,0911.7.

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.7a:
The sheet is kept with Rembrandt's etchings in the Museum's collection. It is a touched impression of the 'Self-Portrait in a soft Hat and embroidered Cloak' (Bartsch 7, Hind 54), unique in this, the second state.[1] The sheet has been trimmed, as the plate usually measures 148 x 130 mm.
The British Museum's collection contains another touched impression, trimmed nearer the head, of the third state (1848,0911.9) in which the drawn work coincides, more or less, with the plate as completed in the fifth and later states. There is a third touched impression, of the fourth state, in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. In this the style of dress remains as it is in the present sheet, without the generous folds of fur seen in the completed etching, but the body is turned more to the front as in the final result on the plate.[2]
The print's inclusion in a catalogue of drawings is justified by the extent of the work in black chalk. Most writers have accepted the inscribed date of 1631 as the time of its execution. However, it has been shown that Rembrandt backdated the sheets in the British Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale by about two years, from 1633-4, when he was 27 years old. This explains why the artist's age is corrected in both from '27' (1633-4) to '24' (1630-31).[3] Presumably the etching in its first four states was made before the artist's 25th birthday on 15 July, 1631, and watermark evidence suggests that the first nine states were all completed at the same time.[4] He then later, probably in c.1633-4, took up the unfinished proofs and drew on them in black chalk. The smooth handling of the chalk speaks for a later date than 1631 (compare, for example, the more rugged handling of 'Diana at the Bath' of c.1630-31, here cat. no.5; inv. no.1895,0915.1266). The format adopted, with the fictive arch, resembles Rembrandt's drawn 'Portrait of a Man in an Armchair' in the Payson collection (Benesch 433), which is dated 1634. The full 'Rembrandt' signature is also characteristic of the later period and would be unique for c.1631, when Rembrandt signed his work in monogram as in the earlier states of the print.[5] It may not be coincidental that J. G. van Vliet made a copy of the etching which is dated 1634.[6]
The etching is not signed with the monogram and date, 1631, until the fifth state, but the plate may only have been inked in the head in the earlier states so that the monogram and date in the top left corner would not have printed, and all the impressions have been cut so that the signature would in any case probably have been removed.[7]
The composition, which somewhat unusually shows Rembrandt in his everyday clothes rather than in a fancy costume, was influenced by Paulus Pontius's engraving of 1630 after Rubens's 'Self-Portrait' painted for Charles I and still in the royal collection at Windsor.[8] From it Rembrandt adopted not only the hat but also the pose of the body turned to the left, an element that appears both in the present sheet and in the completed etching.[9] The Rubens is a bust-length portrait within a frame, as in the present sheet, but was modified by Rembrandt into an unframed half-length portrait in the finished etching. Rubens's image seems also to have informed the painted 'Self-Portrait' of 1632 in Glasgow (Bredius 17, Corpus A58).[10] Another painted 'Self-Portrait' of 1632 in a private collection (Corpus IV, Add.1) is almost identical to the present sheet in composition, though in reverse, and were it not for the 1632 date on the painting it would be assumed that the British Museum drawing preceded it but (to summarise the foregoing), because of the form of Rembrandt's signature and the style of his manipulation of the chalk as well as the correction to his age it must date from one or two years later. The adjustment suggests that Rembrandt felt it was important to record his age correctly.[11]

An etched copy after this sheet was made in 1809 by I.J. de Claussin.[12]

[1] See White and Boon, 1969, I, pp.2-3, no.B7. The first four states represent the head and hat only.
[2] The authenticity of the retouching on the British Museum's second touched impression (1848,0911.9) is hard to judge because of its rubbed condition. It is usually rejected, e.g. by Hind, 1912/24, under no.54, and White and Boon, 1969, I, p.3. In the compiler's view the additions are likely to be by Rembrandt, a view supported by the previously unrecognised fact that it was kept together with the Bibliothèque Nationale's impression in the albums compiled by J.P. Zomer and subsequently owned by A. M. Zanetti and Baron Vivant-Denon (see Duchesne, 1826, p.94, nos.311-12). The existence in Venice in the eighteenth century of both the British Museum's and the Paris touched impressions raises the suspicion that Zanetti sold some 'duplicates' from the Zomer albums to Consul Smith. The British Museum's smaller touched impression (1848,0911.9) was subsequently purchased from Samuel Woodburn by Lord Aylesford in 1829. It came to the Museum with many items from the Aylesford collection in 1848 via the dealer W. Smith (see Lugt 58). The Bibliothèque Nationale's impression was owned after the sale of Denon's collection in 1827 by Thomas Wilson (see his catalogue of Rembrandt's etchings, 1836, p.28, note), who bought it from Woodburn (see L.2580). According to Lugt (loc. cit.) Wilson sold his collection to W. B. Tiffin in c.1830 but repurchased part of it. In 1877 his impression was owned by Lord Holford, who lent it to the exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club (Exh. London, 1877, p.55, no.7). Details of the provenance of the British Museum's impressions can be gleaned from a marked copy of Wilson's catalogue, kept in the Department. See further Royalton-Kisch, 1993.
[3] That the work in black chalk was executed later than 1631 was proposed by Seymour Haden (Exh. London, 1877, p.32, and Seymour Haden, 1879, p.23, basing himself only on the Bibliothèque Nationale's impression) and by Middleton, 1878, p.xli and p.53, repr. pl.1, fig.3, who also mentions the present sheet and the second touched impression in the British Museum (1848,0911.9). Both based their arguments on the style and on the form of the signature. Schatborn, in Exh. Amsterdam, 1981, no.4b (referring only to the Paris impression), and Broos, 1982, p.251 (in which he refers to his article in the 'NRC Handelsblad', in the 'Cultureel Supplement', no. 543, 1 May, 1981, p.1, an article I have not seen) and again in Exh., Amsterdam, 1985-6, no.19, saw that the correction from 'Aet.27' to 'Aet.24' by the artist gives the clue to the date of the additions and proposed a dating in 1633 (without reference to Middleton and Seymour Haden's views). The artist was born on 15 July, 1606 according to Orlers, 1641, p.375 (see Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, p.45), and this date is now generally accepted, although some caution has been voiced recently by Jacobs, 1988, p.99.
[4] See Exh. London, 2000-2001, under cat. no.13, and Hinterding, 2006, vol.II, p.244, where impressions of the first nine states are recorded as having watermarks of no later than 1631.
[5] The present signature resembles that on the drawing of 'Christ among his Disciples' of 1634 in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (Benesch 89). The earliest dated drawing to be signed with the artist's first name in full is the 'Study for Lot drunk' of 1633 in Frankfurt (Benesch 82). The first paintings to be signed in this way also date from 1633 (see Corpus, II, 1986, pp.99-106) apart from the 'Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp' of 1632 in the Mauritshuis, The Hague (Bredius 403, Corpus A51). There it is spelt 'Rembrant' and its authenticity is doubtful (see Corpus, II, 1986, p.182). One etching of 1632, the 'St Jerome praying, arched', is signed 'Rembrant [sic] ft. 1632'. As for the paintings and drawings, the name 'Rembrandt' is the norm for the etchings (though sometimes without the 'd') from 1633 (for an overview of the signatures on the etchings, see Münz, 1932, II, p.48). Autograph documents of 1631 are also signed without the 'd' (see Corpus I, 1982, vol. pp.53ff.). The first document to be signed by the artist with the 'd' dates from 10 June 1634, being the banns of his marriage to Saskia (Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, pp.106-7, no.1634/2, with reproduction). Benesch, 1964, p. 124, n.11, wrote that he knew of no instance in which the artist had spelt his name 'Rembrant'(!).
[6] Listed as van Vliet by White and Boon, loc. cit. (see n.1), p.3.
[7] See White, I, 1969, p.110, n.5. Of all the impressions hitherto described and reproduced, only one (the Amsterdam impression of the fourth state) might have shown the signature, but even this is uncertain (see the reproduction published by Rovinski, 1890, no.25). White, loc. cit., suggests that it has been trimmed more than the sheet under discussion.
[8] As first suggested by Slatkes, 1973, p.255. That Rembrandt only occasionally depicted himself in modern, everyday dress was noted by van de Wetering, 1997, p.4.
[9] The idea proposed by Chapman, 1990, that the touched impressions were completed only after the etching is now accepted. Münz, 1952 (see Lit. below) felt that the discrepancy of style in the etching warranted the attribution of the print's completion to J.G.van Vliet.
[10] The etching's analogies with this painting were first noted by Hind, 1912; the change from the bust length in Exh. Amsterdam-Rotterdam, 1956 (see Lit. below).
[11] As noted by van de Wetering, 2002, pp.39-40.
[12] As noticed by Jaco Rutgers, who found an impression in the Art Institute of Chicago (email correspondence, 21 March 2011). As he mentions, the date (1809) suggests that De Claussin saw it at the Hibbert sale.

LITERATURE (always as by Rembrandt in 1631 unless otherwise stated):
de Claussin, 1824, p. 5, under no.7, and 1828, p.2 (notes several touched impressions, usually signed and dated 1631; he may therefore have known the present sheet); Blanc, II, 1861, pp.144-6 (confuses provenances of present sheet and 1848,0911.9, but knew both); Vosmaer, 1868, p.21; Middleton, 1878, pp.xli and 53, under no.52, and repr. pl.1, fig.3 (see n.3 above); Willshire, 1874, p.115 (provenance; I am grateful to Felix Pollack for this reference); Dutuit, I, 1883, p.49, under no.7; Rovinski, 1890, under no.7, repr. pl.21; Michel, 1893, p.4; Seidlitz, 1895/1922, under no.7 (first half of 1631; notes other two touched impressions); Hofstede de Groot, 1906[I], p.II, no.16; Exh. Paris, 1908, p.23, under no.10; Hind, 1912/24, under no.54 (see notes 3 and 11 above); Neumann, 1918, pp.105-6; Graul, 1920, p.11; Bauch, 1933, p.217; Benesch, 1935, p.9; van Gelder, 1946, VI, p.11, repr. p.15; Münz, 1952, I, repr. pl.14, 11, pp.28 and 56, and under no.14 (Rembrandt not satisfied with drawn solution; etching completed later – by van Vliet?); Benesch, 1954/73, I, no.57, repr. fig.62/66; Biörklund and Barnard, 1955, p.35; Exh. Amsterdam-Rotterdam, 1956, under no.15 (see n.11); van Hall, 1963, p.274, no.129; Erpel, 1967, pp.156-7 and no.41, repr. fig.23; White, 1969, I, pp.109 and 120, II, repr. pl.135; White and Boon, 1969, I, p.2, under no.B7 ('4' corrected from '7'); Exh. Vienna, 1970-71, p.35, under no.46; Campbell, 1971, pp.61-3, repr. fig.4 (Rubens' influence; iconography resembles portraits of artists, not self-portraits); Rosenberg, 1973, p.108 (c.1630; compares Vienna 'Self-Portrait', Benesch 1177); Slatkes, 1973, p.255 (based on Rubens); Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, pp.76-7, repr.; Broos, 1982, pp.246 and 251 (1633; see n.3 above); Wright, 1982, p.45, no.4, pl.36; Exh. Paris, 1986, p.55, under no.21 (print before July 1631); Exh. Amsterdam, 1989, p.179, repr. (quotes Vosmaer, who in 1863 used the date as evidence that Rembrandt was born in 1607, and Broos, 1982); Chapman, 1989, pp.209-10, repr. fig.7 (suggests the redrawing postdates the sequence of states); Chapman, 1990, p.61, repr. fig.91 (quotes Broos, 1982; not preparatory, as Chapman 1989 – see n.9 above; compares painting as Hind, 1912/24; Rubens's influence, as Slatkes, 1973); Exh. Glasgow, 1990-91, p.17; Royalton-Kisch, 1991[I], p.280, repr. fig.14; Royalton-Kisch, 1991[II], repr. p.305, fig.182; Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], pp.167-8, repr. fig.12; Royalton-Kisch, 1993, pp.111-122, repr. fig.56 (dates and provenance); van de Wetering, 1997, p.4, repr. fig.3 (Rembrandt not often portrayed in everyday clothes); Starcky, 1999, p.11, repr.; Exh. Washington-London-The Hague, 2000-2001, p.90, under cat. no.14, repr. fig.1 (influenced Dou's painted Self-Portrait of c.1645 in a private collection, Spain); van der Wetering, 2002[I], pp.39-40, repr.p.35, fig.42 (see n.11 above); Exh. Amsterdam, 2003, p.39, repr. fig.42; Dickey, 2004, p.27, repr. fig.34 (not a study but an afterthought); Dickey, 1998, fig.32 (retouches date from 1639); Binstock, 2006, p.271, repr. fig.19b (chalk additions part of preparation for the print; the artist's age never read '27' but always '24', the sloping '4' then readjusted); Schwartz, 2006, p.151, repr. fig.258; I. Seligman, 'Lines of Thought', London, 2016, no. 73, p. 118.

self-portrait (all objects)

Associated names
Portrait of Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from W & G Smith (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Joseph Harding (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection George Hibbert (L. 2849; his sale, Thomas Philipe, London, 1.v.1809/7 bt by Woodburn for £5) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Possibly J. P. Zomer and A. M. Zanetti (see n.2 under Comment); Consul Joseph Smith, Venice; his sale, Christie’s, 6th day, 27 April, 1776, part of lot 57: ‘REMBRANDT’S WORKS’, bt Boydell, £288-15s; Marquess of Donegal (his collection said in the catalogue to have belonged to Smith), sale, London, Stewart, 2nd day, 31 January, 1800, lot 151: ‘A Portrait of Rembrandt, an Original Drawing, by himself, in the 27th year of his Age, 1631, finely executed’ (the Museum’s copy inscribed by the dealer, Thane: ‘This print is evidently the same as that now in the British Museum from Mr Harding’s Colln who bot it at the Buckingham sale Head part a print same as lot 126 [an impression of one of the ‘head only’ states], the bottom drawn & the whole ornamented, it seems by one of his Scholars (Thane)’); George Hibbert (L.2849); his sale, London, Th. Philipe, 17 April, etc., 1809, 13th day, lot 7, bt Woodburn, £5-0-0; Duke of Buckingham; his sale, London, Phillips, 12th day, 12 June, 1834, lot 1573, bt Josi, £53 –11s (presumably for Harding); purchased by the British Museum with the collection of Joseph Harding of Finchley, 1842 (see L. under no. 1196). The inventory number and provenance have not previously been published. Records of them had gone astray because the sheet had never been marked with an inventory number. As a result it was stamped with the number 1973,U.789 in a recent campaign to furnish all items in the collection with an inventory number. See Griffiths and Williams, 1987, pp.9-10. The provenance was re-established while preparing this catalogue. Information about Harding can be gleaned from the Museum’s archives. 1842,0806.1 to 321 were all purchased from W & G Smith, who had acquired the collection of Joseph Harding, from whom they all came. The acquisition was recommended to the Trustees by Josi on 31 March and 29 April 1841, but only purchased in 1842.

Exhibition History
1899, London (BM), p.23, no.50b;
1938, p.18, no.54;
1985-6, Amsterdam, no.19 (1633);
1992, no.8a, repr. in colour;
1994-5, Liverpool, no.12, repr.;
1999 June-Sep, London, National Gallery, Remb. by Himself, no.13,ii,
1999/2000 Sep-Jan, The Hague, Mauritshuis, Rembrandt by Himself
2000/1 Jul-Jan, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt the Printmaker
2002-3, Rome, no.13,ii.
2016 Jun-Sep New York, Morgan Library, Rembrandt's First Masterpiece
2017 May - Sep, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 73
2017-2018 Oct - Jan, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 73

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