- Museum number
The great Jewish bride; young woman, turned to left, long hair falling on shoulders; second state with bottom half still unfinished, reworked at top. 1635
Etching, with some drypoint and burin
Watermark: Strasbourg lily with initials BA (Hinterding catalogue, variant A.a.a., datable 1635)
- Production date
Height: 219 millimetres
Width: 168 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For impressions of the first and later states see F,6.110-111; 1868,0822.700; 1910,0212.375; and 1969,0111.4. For a copy see 1829,0415.45.+.
Selected literature: Landsberger 1946, pp. 74-8; Kahr 1966, pp. 228-44; Royalton-Kisch 1993b, pp. 186-8; White 1999, pp. 125-8.
Hinterding et al. 2000:
Despite its title and the elaborate, fantastical costume, the 'Great Jewish bride' of 1635 can be counted among Rembrandt's most directly descriptive portraits of his first wife, Saskia Uylenburgh (1612-42), whom he married in the previous year. It may be compared with a number of etchings he made of her in the following two years, including the 'Studies of the head of Saskia' and others of 1636 and the 'Three heads of women', one lightly etched of c. 1637 (B.365 and 1848,0911.189). Also worthy of comparison for its iconography is the 'Study of Saskia as St Catherine' (the 'little Jewish bride') of 1638 (B.342), which casts Saskia in another role.
The question arises as to whether, in the 'Great Jewish bride', Rembrandt had a specific iconography in mind. Various suggestions have been made, the most persuasive of which holds that Saskia here modelled for Esther, shown (from the third state) clasping the decree to slay the Jews, and clad in her 'royal apparel' before approaching Ahasuerus in order to expose Haman's treacherous intentions towards the Jewish people (Esther IV, 8 and V, 1). [Kahr 1966. Rembrandt's painting in Ottawa of c.1632-3 may represent the same subject (Corpus II, no. A64), as also his drawing of a 'Young woman seated in an armchair' in the British Museum (Benesch 1174, as suggested by Royalton-Kisch 1992, no. 59)]. This biblical episode precedes the 'Triumph of Mordechai', represented by Rembrandt in around 1641 (F,4.69).
Rembrandt seems to have begun the plate by working informally from life, doubtless lengthening Saskia's hair in anticipation of the final design. The second state, adds little to the first, reducing a few highlights on the forehead, nose and chin. Before embarking on further work, Rembrandt made a rough, boldly executed drawing which anticipates his style of the 1640s. This was a rehearsal for the completion of the composition in the third state, and interestingly the ink is paler and the style more rectilinear in the sections of the drawing that Rembrandt was copying from the second state; for the rest a far darker and freer line prevails [see further the Introduction to Hinterding et al. 2000, pp. 72-3]. After the third state there were further refinements, some of them (more hair on the forehead, shadows over the breast and nearer sleeve) sketched in black chalk on a third-state impression in Amsterdam [De Bruijn RP-P-1962-112]. Shading was then added to the figure's sleeves and hands in the fourth state, which is extremely rare - only the Amsterdam impression and one other, in Berlin, are recorded. Yet the more common fifth state merely adds definition to the stonework at the upper right corner, as sketched out on the touched impression of the third in Amsterdam.
The watermarks suggest that all five states were created in a short period, revealing - along with the drawing and the touched proof - the exceptional lengths to which Rembrandt was prepared to go in order to perfect the result, which has always been counted among the artist's most desirable prints.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 Jun-Sep, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, Rembrant's Women
2001 Sep-Dec, London, Royal Academy, Rembrandt's Women
2006 Apr-Jun, Hull, Ferens AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2006 Jun-Sep, Bath, Victoria AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2006 Oct-Dec, Newcastle, Laing AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2007 Apr-Jun, Stoke-on-Trent, Potteries MAG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2007 Jun-Sep, Blackpool, Grundy AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2014 Jun-Oct, Suffolk, Gainsborough's House, Rembrandt the Print Maker
2019 7 Feb-4 Aug, BM, G90, 'Rembrandt: thinking on paper'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1973,U.868