drawing / album

A bearded man, almost half-length, resting his head in his hand Pen and brown ink Verso: Jael and Sisera Red chalk


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • VersoVerso

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1952,0121.34

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 116 (anonymous Rembrandt School)


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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)
album (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Circle/School of Rembrandt (anonymous) (biographical details | all objects)
1634-1635 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A man in a tall had resting his head on his hand; figure is almost half-length and wears a long beard, c.1634-35.

Pen and brown ink; the verso in red chalk; ruled framing lines in a lighter brown ink.

Verso: Two Figures, one reclining, the other with a Knife (?)

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed on verso, in pen and dark brown ink: 'No....' ; on backing sheet, in pencil (a typical inscription for drawings in the Cavendish album): 'Rembrandt'.

Height: 104 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 28mm apart)
Width: 90 millimetres

Generally good; some surface dirt.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, anonymous Rembrandt School, cat. no.116.
The drawing on the recto, which iconographically belongs loosely to the melancholic scholar type,[2] is stylistically close to Rembrandt's work of c.1634-5 (compare especially cat. no.7; Gg,2.252). The characterisation of a half-length figure on a small scale is comparable to Rembrandt's sketches in the 'Sheet of Studies' in Birmingham (Benesch 340) and the similar drawing formerly in the Cassirer collection in Amsterdam (Benesch 339). The head may be compared with the 'Study of an Elder' in the Pierpont Morgan Library (Benesch 336), a work of c.1634 and related to Rembrandt's 'St John the Baptist preaching' in Berlin (Bredius 555; Corpus A106). Yet the lines in the present work are considerably less fluent; the pen is handled throughout in a more tentative and fragmentary manner that cannot be paralleled in drawings that may be securely given to Rembrandt himself.
The subject of the sketch on the verso is uncertain,[3] but stylistically it provides similar cause for doubting Rembrandt's authorship. His own sketch in Washington of comparable figures, also in red chalk (Benesch 437 verso), exhibits greater incisiveness and vigour throughout. The quality of draughtsmanship in the arms and legs of the reclining figure further undermines an attribution to Rembrandt.
It may be that the present work is by the same hand as a group of drawings, the attribution of which to Rembrandt has recently been questioned. The group includes the 'Christ with Mary and Martha' in Haarlem (Benesch 79) and the 'Joseph interpreting the Dreams of the Butler and Baker' in Chicago (Benesch 80), and Govert Flinck has been named as the possible draughtsman.[4] It may be that he was responsible for the British Museum's drawing.
A painting of a similar figure, probably by a Rembrandt pupil, was formerly in the Nicholson, Sedelmeyer and Schloss collections, bearing a Rembrandt signature and the date 1643.[5] In it, the figure wears a cap and casts his gaze towards the lower left of the composition.

[1] See L.959.
[2] Many examples of this iconographic type appear in the work of Rembrandt and his circle, some of them discussed by Lütke Notarp, 1998, pp.217ff.
[3] Possibilities might include two Old Testament subjects, the 'Sacrifice of Isaac' (cf. cat. no.10) or 'Jael and Sisera'.
[4] The group includes the Washington study of the 'Temptation of Christ', Benesch 66, recently assigned to Flinck by Sumowski, IV, 1981, no.950ax. The Chicago drawing was doubted by Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, under no.42, n.2. Flinck has also been proposed for the group as a whole by Schatborn, both in conversation with the compiler and in a lecture delivered at the Fogg Art Museum (Sackler Building), Cambridge (Mass.) on 7 Nov. 1992.
[5] Bode and Hofstede de Groot, IV, no.506, repr.

Chatsworth, 2002, III, p.400, no.1469, repr. (quoting the draught text of the present catalogue).

Associated names
Representation of Sisera (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Jael (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
With contribution from J R Vallentin Fund (biographical details | all objects)
With contribution from The Art Fund (as NACF) (biographical details | all objects)
Purchased from Leslie Colling-Mudge (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Charles Compton Cavendish, 1st Baron Chesham (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Lord James Cavendish (See Acquisition Comment) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
From an album (the 'Cavendish Album', folio 33) probably compiled by or for Lord James Cavendish (d.1741; he was the second son of the 2nd Duke of Devonshire, and may have been given the drawings in the album by him; some bear the mark of Nicolaes Anthonis Flinck, whose collection was purchased by the 2nd Duke in 1723/4); by descent at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire; the album believed to have been in the library of Charles Cavendish, 1st Lord Chesham; L. Colling-Mudge, from whom purchased for the British Museum in 1952, with the assistance of the National Art-Collections Fund.

Exhibition History
No exhibitions.

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