- Museum number
The Holy Family with the Cat, after Rembrandt; the Virgin seated with the Christ Child on her lap before a small fire with a cat beyond, in a domestic interior. c.1646-50
Red and black chalk with brown and grey wash, and pen and brown ink; ruled framing-lines in pen and brown ink.
Verso: blank (see Inscriptions).
Watermark: foolscap (indistinct), similar to Amsterdam, 1998, cat.no.245, w117, repr. p.245 (on a drawing by Pieter Molijn, probably made between 1638 and 1650)
- Production date
- 1646-1650 (circa)
Height: 192 millimetres (top corners cut)
Width: 287 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 25mm apart)
- Curator's comments
- After the 1646 painting by Rembrandt in the Staatliche Museen, Kassel (Bredius 572).
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Nicolaes Maes after Rembrandt, cat. no.1:
A copy by Maes after Rembrandt's painting of 1646 in Kassel. Approximately one quarter of the painting, on the right, which shows a 'trompe l'oeil' curtain, and all the edges of the panel, which show a fictive frame, are omitted or were cut away when the drawing was trimmed. The top, arched section of the painting is also left out, and the bed behind Mary is not clearly discernible.
These elements do appear in a second version of the drawing, now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which is also attributed to Maes. Drawn on a sheet of vellum, this is clearly an independent, finished work of art, and copies of this type appear to have been standard products of draughtsmen who were training or working in Rembrandt's studio. Although the relationship between the two drawings is not entirely clear, it may be that the British Museum is a first version or sketch towards the Ashmolean Museum's more pictorially complete drawing.
The attribution to Maes seems convincing, for two main reasons. The combination of different media, and the range of touch, varying from the liquid application of washes to the almost pedantic pen lines, is found in a number of his works, including cat. nos.2 and 4 (Oo,10.121 and 1860,0616.88). Equally, the simplification of some forms into geometric, if rather rough-hewn blocks, as seen especially in the Christ child and the cat, is also characteristic of many drawings by Maes. He probably became a pupil of Rembrandt soon after the painting was made, but may have had access to the work later, in a location outside Rembrandt's studio. The date of c.1646-50 suggested here is therefore somewhat conjectural, but the careful execution, especially of the mother and child group, suggests an early date.
 Bredius 572.
 Sumowski 1791x. According to correspondence with its late owner, Karl Parker, in British Museum files, he acquired the drawing from the art-dealer, Mellaert; and Jonathan Richardson senior, who owned the drawing in the 18th century, believed it was by Rembrandt. Sumowski (loc. cit.) and Robinson, 1996 (diss.), pp.147-8, suggest that the Oxford version was perhaps based on the British Museum drawing rather than on the painting. But in view of its clear inclusion of the bed and its more accurate reflection of other elements in the oil, for example in the background immediately above the Virgin's head and in the proportions of the cat, this seems unlikely).
 See Corpus, III, 1989, pp.13-16.
LITERATURE (as Maes after Rembrandt's painting in Kassel unless otherwise stated):
Robinson, 1869/76, no.717/732 (see n.1 above); London, 1915, p.91, no.5; Valentiner, 1923, p.22; Valentiner, 1924, p.1, repr. fig.1 (drawn in a favoured technique for Maes); Van Dyke, 1927, pp.112 and 119 (by Van der Pluym, to whom also attributes Kassel painting); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, p.23; Sumowski, 1979 etc., VIII, 1984, p.4026, no.1790x,repr.; Bruyn, 1988, p.328 (discussing copies after Rembrandt by Maes and other pupils); Corpus, III, 1989, p.16 and n.21 (mentions Oxford version); Robinson, 1989 (1990), p.159; Robinson, 1996 (diss.), pp.147-8 (curtain of original painting probably cut away; Oxford version perhaps based on the BM drawing rather than on the painting).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
London, 1956, p.32, no.2;
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle (not in catalogue);
London, 1996-7 (listed in Appendix), Malcolm Exhibition.
2020 22 Feb-20 Sep, London, The National Gallery, Nicolaes Maes
- Trimmed; otherwise generally good; some minor scuffs and creasing.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- J. Goll van Franckenstein (According to Esdaile's inscription; not, however, identifiable in Goll van Franckenstein's sale catalogue of 1833); William Esdaile (L.2617); his sale, Christie's, fifth day, 23 June, 1840, lot 1055 (as Rembrandt), bt S. Woodburn, £8-18-6; his sale, Christie's, 13.vi.1860/1418 as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - The Virgin and Child in a room [...]', bt W. B. Tiffin, from whom purchased 22 March, 1866, by John Malcolm of Poltalloch for £35 (according to annotated copy of Robinson, 1876, in the British Museum); purchased with Malcolm's collection, 1895.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number