A woman in Dutch national costume; HL turned and looking to r, wearing a dress with fur trim and and linen cap. c.1638 Pen and brown ink and brown wash


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • RectoRecto

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1270

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 16 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 314
Hind 1915-31 52
JCR 798

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A woman in Dutch national costume; half-length turned and looking to right, wearing a dress with fur trim and and linen cap. c.1638
Pen and brown ink with slightly greyish brown wash; framing lines in pen and black ink (in brown ink down the left side only)
Verso: see Inscriptions
No watermark

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, centre, in graphite: ‘798’ and lower left: ‘300’; in pen and black ink, lower left: ‘9/7’; in red ink: ‘N2924’; in pen and brown ink below, in Esdaile’s hand: ‘Rembrandt 1835 WE’.

Height: 130 millimetres
Width: 78 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 28mm apart)

Generally good; probably trimmed (see also the description in the Röver inventory); slightly faded; small repair upper left edge and repaired tear upper right edge; small restored patch under the figure’s right breast; it is possible that a few touches of wash, e.g. in the figure’s face, are later additions.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.16.
To judge from the description in the Röver inventory (given under Provenance above), this drawing is a fragment of a sheet that originally also showed a sleeping woman with a small child at her breast.
The figure has been variously described as seated or standing behind a table, and in north or south Dutch national costume. In fact the costume is from Waterland.[1] In a second study in Haarlem (Benesch 315), what appears to be the same figure is seen from behind wearing the same or a similar costume and adopting a comparable pose, standing near a table.[2] Although on other occasions (see, for example, Oo,9.94, Benesch 710) such a repetition has led to the retention of only one version as an authentic work by Rembrandt, in the present instance both drawings seem to be autograph.
The model is described on the verso of the Haarlem drawing as 'De minne moer van Titus, soon van Rembra [...]' ('the wet-nurse of Titus, Rembrandt's son') in a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century inscription. Titus van Rijn, the artist's son, was baptised on 22 September, 1641.[3] It has often been suggested that the model was therefore Geertje Dircx, but there are two objections to this idea: first, she is specifically recorded as Titus's 'dry' nurse in a document of October, 1649;[4] secondly, the style of both the Haarlem and the present drawing suggests an earlier date, c.1638, before Geertje Dircx is known to have had any contact with Rembrandt. Comparison may be made between them and two datable drawings of this period: the 'Studies of a Woman reading and an Oriental' in the Kramarsky collection, New York (Benesch 168; related to the 1638 etching of 'Joseph telling his Dreams', Bartsch 37, Hind 160), which although executed in iron-gall ink resembles them in the rendering of detail and in the application of the wash; and the study in Leiden (Benesch 164) for the 1638 etching of 'Adam and Eve' (Bartsch 28, Hind 159), in which the group on the right is realised in a similar shorthand to the seated figure in the Haarlem drawing. Whether or not the inscription on the latter is reliable, the name of the model remains uncertain.

[1] According to Simon Honig Jansz. of the Nederlands Openlucht Museum, Arnhem (see Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2, p.352) and confirmed by De Winkel, 2006 (see Lit. below).
[2] Without denying the similarity of the pose in the two drawings, the ingenious theory that a mirror was used and the figure drawn twice from a single vantage-point, proposed by Konstam, 1977/78, p.92/28, seems to go too far and is contradicted by the position of the table in the present sheet, of the right hand and left arm (indeed the arms, though not the cloth, should be reversed), by the position of the artist seen beyond the table in the Haarlem sheet and of the shadow behind the figure in the British Museum's drawing. Objections have already been raised by Borssum Buisman, 1984. The dress is not necessarily the same one (or if it is, then probably not worn at the same sitting) because in the British Museum drawing the collar seems to be wider and the fur travels over the outer edge of the shoulders rather than the inner part; the cap also seems to be lower.
[3] Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, p.209, no.1641/4. The inscription on the Haarlem sheet, usually described as seventeenth century, is assigned to the eighteenth in Exh. Amsterdam, 1969, p.146, under no.51.
[4] Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, pp.270-73, no.1649/6: '… zij t soontge van den voorn: Rembrandt genaemt van Rhijn jonger sijnde hadde droogh gemint...'.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt):
Vosmaer, 1868/77, p.517/601 (see note under Acquisition); Robinson, 1869/76, no.779/798 (said to be nurse of Titus); Lippmann, IV, no.89a; Kleinmann, II, no.57; Valentiner, 1905, pp.37-8 and p.40, repr. pl.II, fig.2 (c.1643-4; of Geertje Dircx); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.899 (relates to Haarlem drawing); Baldwin Brown, 1907, p.78 (Geertje Dircx); Wurzbach, 1910, p.418 ('Woman at a Table'); London, 1915, no.52; Exh. London, 1929, p.239, under no.636, and 1929[I], p.214; Hind, 1932, p.15 (traditionally identified as Geertje Dircx); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.705, repr. (c.1642, Geertje Dircx, but she was not Titus' wet-nurse); Benesch, 1935, p.24 (c.1636; Frisian costume); Hamann, 1948, pp.87-8, repr. fig.63 (c.1642; Geertje Dircx, of whom portraits are rare); Benesch, II, 1954/73, no.314, repr. fig.353/380 (c.1636; Zeeland costume); Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, p.94, under no.105 (early 1640s or c.1636; N. Holland costume though a Cats illustration shows it worn in Leiden – information from Prof. Dr Fr. W. S. van Thienen); Rosenberg, 1956, p.69 (early 1640s; probably Geertje Dircx); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961, p.25 (beginning of 1640s; could be Geertje Dircx; costume N. Holland according to Prof. van Thienen); Muller, 1965, repr. p.39 (Geertje?); Slive, 1965, II, no.538 (c.1642; not Geertje Dircx, as she was not Titus' wet-nurse); Haak, 1969/68, p.141, repr. fig.216 (c.1636?; not Geertje Dircx as Benesch's date too early; perhaps Rumbartus' nursemaid); Exh. Amsterdam, 1969, p.146 under no.51 (perhaps c.1638 and therefore not Geertje Dircx; the inscription on the Haarlem drawing eighteenth century); Exh. London, 1970, p.25, under no.24; Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.171; Konstam, 1977, p.97, repr. p.103, repr. fig.49 (see n.2 above); Tümpel, 1977, p.98 (c.1643; Geertje Dircx?); Exh. Haarlem, 1978, p.13, under no.70 (1642-5; of Geertje Dircx; N. Holland costume); Konstam, 1978, p.28, repr. fig.10 (see n.2 above); Borssum Buisman, 1984, repr. p.6 (c.1642, of Geertje; refutes Konstam, 1978); Tümpel, 1986, repr. p.262 (as Tümpel, 1977); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2, p.350 (costume compared with 'Young Woman at an open Half-Door' in Chicago, Br.367, now attributed to van Hoogstraten, see further n.2 above); Schatborn, 1994, p.21 (ex-Röver – perhaps the Haarlem drawing originally the same sheet; when cut, framing-lines redrawn; remnants of Röver no. visible); Haarlem, 1997, pp.300-301, under no.327 (ex-Röver; early 1640s and of Geertje Dircx); Roscam Abbing, 2006, p.28 (as Exh. London, 1992); Schwartz, 2006, p.101, repr. fig.181 (supporting Konstam, 1977); De Winkel, 2006, p.81 (c.1640; Waterland dress; Geertje Dircx).

dutch costume 17thc (all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Johann Goll van Franckenstein (L.2987) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (his sale, Christie's, 7.vi.1860/764 (?) as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - An old woman in a hood - bistre an) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Baron Jan Gijsbert Verstolk van Soelen (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Malcolm of Poltalloch (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Mendes de Leon (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Gérard Leembruggen (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Sir Thomas Lawrence (L.2445) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection William Esdaile (L.2617) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Valerius Röver (L.2984; Portfolio 9, no.7: ‘Een Boerin en een slapend vroúwtje met een kindtje aan de borst van Dezelve’. [i.e. Rembrandt; see cat. no.31; 1848,0911.138: the present drawing, now a fragment, is described on folio 26 of the manuscript there mentioned in the note pertaining to the Inscription]); Röver’s widow, C. van Dussen, who sold his drawings to the dealer H. de Leth; J. Goll van Franckenstein (L.2987; not identifiable in his sale, 1833); Thomas Lawrence (L.2445); William Esdaile (L.2617; see cat. no.15; inv. no.1895,0915.1264); presumably his sale, Christie’s, 17 June, 1840, perhaps lot 23: ‘Bust of an old Woman, bistre’, bt Woodburn with one other, £1-9-0); Mendes de Leon, sale, Amsterdam, 20 November, 1843, Kunstboek G, no.4, bt Brondgeest, f.50; Verstolk van Soelen; his sale, Amsterdam, de Vries, Brondgeest and Roos, 22 March, 1847, perhaps lot 28: ‘Une femme à mi-corps assise. Beau dessin à la plume, et lavé en partie’, bt A. Roos, f.285; G. Leembruggen; his sale, Amsterdam, 5 March, 1866, lot 469, ‘La nourrice du fils de Rembrandt. . .’, bt Robinson for Malcolm, f.200;* John Malcolm of Poltalloch; purchased with his collection, 1895. * The price was f.200 to Lord Hertford, according to Vosmaer, 1868/77, p.517/601. The annotated copy of Robinson, 1876, in the Department states that the drawing was acquired at the Leembruggen sale for Malcolm at a cost of £19-1-4.

Exhibition History
1878-9, London, Grosvenor Gallery, no.324;
1895, BM, no.378a (same model as cat. no.6; 1895,0915.1268, q.v.); 1899, no.A25 (related drawing in Haarlem);
1938, no.52 (c.1635-40);
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.20, repr. (c.1638; costume from Waterland; not necessarily of Geertje Dircx);
2001-2, Edinburgh-London, 'Rembrandt's Women', p.162, no.80 (compares Louvre drawing of Anslo, Benesch 759, and suggests date c.1640).

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