- Museum number
A woman sitting half-dressed beside a stove; full-length in profile to right, wearing long skirt with a large piece of cloth wrapped around the waist, the chest bare, wearing a cap, her right arm outstretched, the left resting on her left leg, a niche beyond at left, metal stove with ornamentation to her right; first state with the wall left of the niche only vaguely indicated, with remnants of tree leaves in upper left corner, before additional cross-hatching on her breasts and right side. 1658
Etching, burin and drypoint with much surface tone in darker areas, on Japan paper
- Production date
Height: 228 millimetres
Width: 187 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is first state with the body only lightly modelled, for impressions of later states see also F,5.148-149; 1842,1112.43; 1848,0911.100-101; and 1910,0212.365.
Selected literature: Houbraken 1718-21, I, p. 271; De Bruijn 1932, p. 187; Robinson 1980, p. 168, no. 10; Paris 1986, no. 138; Cambridge 1996-7, nos 32-7; White 1999, pp. 202-4.
Hinterding et al. 2000:
The model sits in a chair, naked to the waist, with her right hand resting lightly on a small heap of clothes, and looks to one side. Behind her there is an alcove, and to the right a stove bearing a medallion with a representation of the mourning Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross.
Rembrandt etched a number of female nudes around 1631, among them the 'Diana at the bath' (1829,0415.17) and the 'Naked woman seated on a mound' (1843,0607.126). In the second half of the 1650s he returned to the theme. Initially this renewed interest manifested itself in some drawings that he made from about 1655 onwards, [See Schatborn 1987, for a discussion of these drawings] but in 1658 he also produced four etchings of the nude. 'Woman sitting half-dressed beside a stove' is the largest in the series, and also the only one in which the model is not completely unclothed.
The print is a fine example of Rembrandt's late etching style, in which technical extremes are sometimes combined in a single work. In this instance, the woman's torso and the shift beside her are set down with swift, almost schematic etched lines. These light passages stand out in sharp contrast against the skirt and the background, which have been made dark by means of a web of etched lines enhanced with drypoint and burin. Aside from the stove, there are no points of reference to tell us where the model is, but a drawing dating from around 1652 gives us some idea of the way Rembrandt posed his models in the house - with particular attention to the light.
We know of no fewer than seven states of this etching. Unusually for Rembrandt, however, they were not all intended to work out the composition. The rare first state provides an enlightening insight into the way the print was made. The work was essentially complete, but in the impression it is obvious that the background is still too light and it gives a dingy, grimy effect because the copper plate did not take the ink properly. The alcove behind the model has also not been clearly defined [Christopher White has pointed out that Rembrandt may already have made earlier impressions, because the outlines of the woman's stomach and right leg can be seen under her skirt, suggesting that she was originally depicted nude. See White 1999, p. 204]. This state can therefore be regarded as a proof, although Rembrandt certainly sold the impressions: the five known examples are printed on expensive Japanese paper.
In the similarly rare second state Rembrandt merely strengthened the shadows on the woman's body, and it was only in the third state that he focused on the other areas. He sharpened the definition of the alcove, darkened the wall, added more hatching to the woman's skirt, as also to the stove, and enhanced details in other areas. After this operation, the plate needed no further work and it seems likely that at this stage Rembrandt considered the print as complete. A significant number of impressions were made: we know of at least twenty-four, most of which are on Japanese paper, although there are also some on Chinese and European papers.
It may well have been wear that prompted Rembrandt to work on the plate again after this but, as in the case of the Ecce Homo of 1655 (1848,0911.38), he did not confine himself to restoring worn areas. In the unique impression of the fourth state, [The only known impression is in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France] he enlivened the image by adding a damper in the flue that leads from the stove, and in the fifth state he added new lines to darken the woman's skirt again. He left the background untouched; in the impression shown here the progressively worsening wear can be seen clearly - particularly above the damper. Nevertheless impressions of this state are frequently found on Japanese paper. In the sixth state, finally, which also occurs on western paper, he removed the model's cap. The reason for this move is unclear, particularly since the cap had previously been such a welcome highlight in an otherwise dark setting. [The seventh state differs from the sixth only in that a scratch has appeared above the woman's left breast. The copper plate, which has survived, was also repeatedly worked up after Rembrandt's death].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019 7 Feb-4 Aug, BM, G90, 'Rembrandt: thinking on paper'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number