- Museum number
The Westpoort at Rhenen; a castle with square gabled tower at right, a high wall adjoining, trees at the base and a plain beyond. c.1652-4
Pen and brown ink with some grey wash (probably added by a later hand); ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink (at top in graphite).
Verso: laid down on old mat.
Watermark: fool’s cap with three bells (visible in raking light).
- Production date
- 1652-1654 (circa)
Height: 132 millimetres (chain lines vertical, distance apart uncertain)
Width: 224 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, attributed to Rembrandt, cat. no.82.
The view, taken from the south, shows the west Gate ('Westpoort' or 'Utrechtse poort') at Rhenen. The town lies south east of Amsterdam and was drawn several times, either by Rembrandt or a follower. As here, the drawings mainly show the medieval gates and walls of the city that were largely destroyed during the French invasion of 1673, soon after the artist's death.
The drawings fall stylistically into two groups, the present example belonging to the more detailed series of four studies that on grounds of style may be situated around 1652: two views of the 'Rijnpoort at Rhenen' (Louvre and Chatsworth, Benesch 1300 and 1301) and a view of the 'Mariakerk in Utrecht' (Fogg Art Museum, Benesch 1303), which lies about half way between Amsterdam and Rhenen. For the date, the penwork in the foliage of the present sheet, for example, may be compared in general terms with that of the 'Homer' in the Six Album of 1652 (Benesch 913) and also with the slightly later drawing of 'St John the Baptist preaching' in the Louvre (Benesch 969). The treatment of the architecture – in outlines elaborated almost entirely in horizontal and vertical hatching – is similar to the style of the 'Swijgh Utrecht Tower', also of this period (Benesch 1334, Amsterdam). Apart from the sheet at Chatsworth, all the drawings in the Rhenen and Utrecht group have been touched with grey wash by a later hand.
The artist's comprehension of the architectural details in these drawings occasionally appears confused, leading to doubts being cast on Rembrandt's the authorship of the British Museum's sketch. Yet such moments of imprecision in the description of particular forms characterise undoubted sheets, including the 'Swijgh Utrecht Tower'. The two drawings of the 'Rijnpoort' (Benesch 1300 and 1301) display similar uncertainties (especially in the junction of the central section of the gate with the tower behind and the walls to either side) and the architecture varies unaccountably given that they depict much the same view.
It may be that Rembrandt was not always working from nature but relied on sketches made on-the-spot either by himself or others. A version formerly in Dresden, which has always been listed as a copy of the British Museum's drawing (HdG.280), while not an original sketch by Rembrandt, does suggest that another drawing of the view once existed: in it the window and flue against the wall on the right is more clearly described than in the Museum's drawing, as is the lie of the land in the foreground and the narrow tower on the left, apparently crowned with a flag-post. These observations suggest that the British Museum's drawing may be an old, anonymous copy of a lost sketch by Rembrandt. Yet because of its analogies with Rembrandt's own work, as described above, and because it does not betray a copyist's technique (e.g. a preparatory underdrawing in graphite or a uniform, unexploratory touch), it seems preferable to retain it tentatively for the master, possibly based on another sketch - perhaps that formerly at Dresden or an unknown sheet of which both are transcriptions. However, the draughtsmanship here often exhibits a timidity that seems uncharacteristic of Rembrandt (and somewhat reminiscent of drawings by Pieter de With), and for this reason too, we designate it as 'attributed to' Rembrandt.
The other group of drawings of Rhenen includes sheets in Haarlem (Benesch 826, also of the 'Westpoort' but from the town side, as mentioned in n.1 below) and Bayonne (Benesch 827, of the 'Oostpoort'). They are generally dated to the late 1640s.
 Lugt, 1920, p.162 advanced Rhenen as a possible location, later confirmed by Boschma, 1961. The same gate appears in a drawing in Haarlem but seen from the town side (Benesch 826). Parts of the walls survived until their demolition in 1840.
 Dated to the first half of the 1650s by Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, no.34.
 Posthumously added grey wash frequently appears on Rembrandt's landscape drawings in pen and brown ink; the combination of grey wash with pen and brown ink is otherwise rare in Rembrandt's and his followers' later drawings and although the additions to the present sheet are neither extensive nor insensitive, they are probably not autograph.
 By Seidlitz, 1917, and Schneider in Exh. Washington, 1990 (see Lit. below). The latter compares and contrasts the Chatsworth and Louvre sheets, but it should be noted that the Louvre drawing is executed with the reed pen, a fact that may explain many of the stylistic differences.
 For example in the junction of the small octagonal tower to the right of centre with the curved wall, and the window in the upper part of the shaded wall to the left of centre. Compare also the 'Old and New Church of Sloten' now in Oslo, published by Haverkamp-Begemann, 1974, repr. pl.1.
 See Amsterdam, 1985, under no.111, Exh. Washington, 1990, under no. 51 and Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], pp.103-4. Rembrandt may possibly have visited the area in 1649 with Hendrickje Stoffels, who went to nearby Bredevoort in that year to attend a baptism (see Ruessink, 1989 and Voûte, 1990).
LITERATURE (as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Michel, 1893, p.433, repr.; Seidlitz, 1894, p. 124; Lippmann, I, no.124b; Kleinmann, III, no.64; Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.XLIV; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.958 (notes Dresden version); Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; London, 1915, no. 104; Seidlitz, 1917, p.254 (not Rembrandt; by 'Zeichner der Schlösser'; groups with Benesch 1300 and 1303, on which see above); Eisler, 1918, p.96 (relatively early); Lugt, 1920, p. 162 (see n.1 above); Paris, 1933, p.34, under no.1198 (disagrees with Seidlitz, 1917); Benesch, 1935, p.57 (c.1652-5); Wimmer, 1935, p.42 (c.1650); Wimmer, 1942, pp.42 and 48 (c.1652-5); Benesch, VI, 1957/73, no.1304, repr. fig. 1534/1612 (c.1652-3; Rhenen?; groups with other drawings of the area from the same period, including those in Paris, Chatsworth, Fogg Art Museum and Dresden, Benesch 1300-1305); Boschma, 1961, p.92, repr. fig.3 (shows the Westpoort, Rhenen); Slive, 1965, I, no.127, repr. (c.1648); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.126 (follows Benesch and Lugt, 1920); Voûte, 1970, p.12 (as Benesch); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1974, p.123 (on Rembrandt's fondness for dilapidated buildings); Amsterdam, 1985, p.222, under no.111 (Oostpoort [!] at Rhenen, as also Bayonne drawing Benesch 827); Exh. Paris (Cabinet des dessins), 1988-9, under no.61 (c.1652-3; compared with 'View of Rijnpoort at Rhenen' in Louvre, Benesch 1300); Exh. Washington, 1990, p.188, n.7 (listed as not by Rembrandt); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], pp.103-4 (see n.5 above); Schatborn, 1994, p.23; Schneider, 1995, p.47, n.21 (as Exh. Washington, 1990).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
London, 1899, no.A39;
1992, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.81, repr. (c.1652-4).
- Somewhat foxed, faded and discoloured; the grey wash is probably a later addition (see n.2 under Curatorial Comment).
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number