- Museum number
A Black drummer and commander mounted on mules; riding in profile to right. c.1638
Pen and brown ink and red chalk with brown wash, touched with white and yellow. The order of the application appears to be (1) pen and brown ink; (2) brown wash (in two tones); (3) yellow (probably oil rather than watercolour); (4) red chalk; (5) white heightening. Benesch, 1954/73 (see Lit. under Comment) noted that the red chalk was applied while the wash was still wet, and he also recorded the presence of oil paint.
Verso: laid down on a remnant of an eighteenth century 'Richardson'-style mat, with gilding around the edge of the drawing.
No watermark visible.
- Production date
- 1638 (circa)
Height: 230 millimetres (chain lines not visible)
Width: 171 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Recent literature: David de Witt, 'Black in the art of Rembrandt's time', exh. cat. Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, 2020, fig. 80, p. 110 (reproduced, not exhibited).
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.17.
With cat. no.18 (1859,0806.74), from a group of four drawings of related motifs from an exotic pageant with figures in historicising and foreign costumes. The others are a sketch of 'Two Mummers on Horseback' (Benesch 368, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) and the 'Four black Musicians' (Benesch 366, private collection). All are executed in much the same style and technique and they were all formerly in the collection of Jonathan Richardson, senior.
It has been argued that the pageant represented was that held in The Hague in February, 1638 as part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of Wolfert van Brederode to Louise Christine van Solms, the sister of Amalia, the Princess of Orange. The identification has much to commend it and coincides with the stylistic evidence of the drawings, which would also locate them in this period. The published description of the event, a pamphlet of 1638, refers to groups of black musicians, as shown in Benesch 366, and to 'un Tambour à cheval batant de deux Atabales' ('a drummer on horseback striking two kettledrums'). The description of the dress worn in the parade before the tournament also coincides with what is seen in the drawings. Yet some caution is necessary as similar figures may have appeared at other events that Rembrandt could have witnessed, and his rare documented excursions from Amsterdam do not include one at this time.
Although the drawing is often said to represent two black drummers, the further figure, with his elaborate, somewhat Hungarian-style fur cap, is more probably a commander, holding a mace rather than a drumstick.
 Van Regteren Altena, 1952, pp.59-63.
 Of the securely datable pen and ink studies, the most comparable are the Rotterdam drawing of 'Ruth and Naomi' (Benesch 161), which on the verso has a sketch for the 1638 etching 'Joseph telling his Dreams' (Bartsch 37, Hind 160) and the study of 'Adam and Eve' in Leiden (Benesch 164) for the etching of this subject of the same year (Bartsch 28, Hind 159).
 'Relation de ce qui s'est passé à La Haye au mois de Fevrier l'an 1638 [...] à La Haye, de l'imprimerie de Theodore Maire, 1638.'
 As noted by Christopher White in the Museum's files. The many differences between the figures undermine the theory proposed by Konstam, 1977 and 1978 (see Lit. below) that a single model was posed by a mirror, the further figure being his reflection. Nor is the model necessarily the same as in Benesch 366, as he proposes.
LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt):
Bürger, 1858, p.393 (for a 'cortège' in an 'Adoration of the Magi'); Blanc, II, 1861, p.454; Vosmaer, 1877, p.602; Dutuit, IV, 1885, p.86; Michel, 1893, p.581; Hofstede de Groot, 1894, pp. 177-8 (probably influenced by some oriental model); Seidlitz, 1894, p.121 (attribution doubtful); Lippmann, I, no.117; Kleinmann, II, no.56; Sarre, 1904, pp.148-9, n.2 (rejects theory of an oriental model though the motif of a parasol seen in Louvre 'Timur', Benesch 1188); Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.II; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.924 (copied by Rembrandt, perhaps from an oriental prototype); Saxl, 1908, p.234 (c.1649); Wurzbach, 1910, p.418 (as H. de Groot, 1906); London, 1915, no.8 (c.1630-35; records that Seidlitz, 1894, doubted the attribution, though not of cat. no. 18 (1859,0806.74); Exh. London, 1929, p.227, and 1929[I], p.200, under no.584 (relates to Benesch 366, private collection); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.792 (c.1633-5); Benesch, 1935, p.27 (c.1637; drawing exceptionally pictorial; relates style and iconography to Benesch 360 verso, Louvre, Benesch 363, Rijksmuseum, Benesch 151 Rotterdam); Benesch, 1947, p.12 and no.87 (c.1637); Hamann, 1948, p.147, repr. fig.104 (c.1635); van Regteren Altena, 1952, p.63 (1638; based on marriage pageant at The Hague in February, 1638 - see Comment above); Benesch, 1954/73, II, no.365, repr. fig.412/442 (c.1637-8); van Regteren Altena, 1955, p.410 (as in 1952); Benesch, 1960, p.19 and no.29, repr.; Exh. New York-Cambridge, 1960, p.26, under no.31; Goldscheider, 1960, repr. pl.20 (c.1637); Scheidig, 1962, p.44 and no.48, repr. (unusual degree of finish); White, 1962, repr. frontis. (c.1638); Brion et al., 1965, repr. in colour p.126; Slive, 1965, I, no.119, repr. (c.1638); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.112 (as van Regteren Altena, 1952; also relates to Rembrandt's interest in the theatre in second half of 1630s); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.232; Sciolla, 1976, p.9, repr. pl.XX; Broos, 1977, p.104 (misquotes Sarre, 1904, as originator of theory of Hofstede de Groot, 1894, which is ignored); Konstam, 1977, p.94 (see n.4 above); Konstam, 1978, pp.26-7, repr. fig.7 (see n.4 above); Exh. Paris-Antwerp-London-New York, 1979-80, p.103, under no.71 (notes Richardson provenance of the four drawings in the group); Royalton-Kisch, 1991, p.18, n.1 (with examples of coloured drawings); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], p.60, repr. fig.14a; Exh. New York, 1991-2, under no.18; Schwartz, 2006, p.297, repr. fig.528 (represents 1638 pageant); C. T. Seifert, 'Rembrandt: Britain's Discovery of the Master' Edinburgh, exh.cat. 2018, no. 21.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1899, London, no. A15 (probably early);
1938, no.8; 1956, p.17, no.12;
1969, Amsterdam, no.52 (c.1638; follows van Regteren Altena, 1952 - see Lit. under Comment);
1972-3, London, no.209 (c.1637);
1992, London, no.21, repr. in colour;
2000-1 Dec-Feb, BM Great Court, Human Image
2008 July-Oct, Amsterdam, De Nieuwe Kerk, 'Black and Beautiful'
2011 Feb-May, BM P&D, Exploration, Slavery and Abolition: Images of Africans in the 16th to 19th Centuries
2018 7 Jul-14 Oct, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery, "Rembrandt & Britain"
- Good; small repair lower left corner and small losses at top corners; probably trimmed – the mule’s nose is ‘cut off’ at the right.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Jonathan Richardson, sen. (L.2184); A. Pond, sale, Langford, 1 May, 1759, lot 72, ‘Two negro kettledrummers on horseback (tinged and washed)’, bt Hudson, £8; Thomas Hudson (L.2432); his sale, Langford, 2nd day, 16 March, 1779, lot 52 (contemporary MS identification in British Museum’s copy), bt Willet with two others (unspecified in the MS) £6-15-0; R. Willet, his anon, sale, T. Philipe, 4th day, 13ff. June, 1808, lot 426, bt Allen, £26-5-0; bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight, 1824.
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