The Holy family seated near a fire; the Virgin seated on the ground with the child on her lap, behind Joseph holding up some linen, apparently to dry Pen and brown ink and brown wash, heightened with white, over graphite


© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Oo,10.124

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 104 (anonymous Rembrandt School)
Hind 1915-31 141 (as School of Rembrandt)
Sumowski 1979 continuing 850x

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Formerly attributed to Barent Fabritius (biographical details | all objects)
Circle/School of Rembrandt (anonymous) (biographical details | all objects)
1645-1655 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The Holy family seated near a fire; the Virgin seated on the ground with the child on her lap, behind Joseph holding up some linen, apparently to dry. c.1645-55
Pen and brown ink with brown wash, heightened with white; framing line in brown wash.
Verso: laid down on a green eighteenth-century mat.
No watermark visible.

Inscription Content: On old mat, lower right, in graphite: '124'; on verso of mat, in graphite: '64 [in a circle]/ Payne Knight/ Oo.10-124'.

Height: 157 millimetres (arched top; chain lines vertical, distance apart uncertain)
Width: 179 millimetres (top arched)


Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, anonymous Rembrandt School, cat. no.104.
The drawing seems clearly to be the work of a pupil or emulator of Rembrandt active between around 1645 and 1655. It has been suggested that the same hand produced the drawing of 'Christ with Mary and Martha', here cat. no.112 (Oo,10.123).[2] While this hypothesis is possible (and the drawings have consecutive numbers in the Register, so that Payne Knight may have kept or acquired them together), the analogies may be more in the figure scale, the high degree of finish and the type of subject than in the quality of the penwork, which seems less disciplined and more delicate in the present sheet.
Somewhat closer is a drawing of the 'Adoration of the Shepherds' attributed to Barent Fabritius in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam (Sumowski 848x).[3] This exhibits a comparable freedom of style in a composition set in an interior around another artificial light source. Yet the attribution of the Rotterdam drawing to Fabritius depends entirely on a loose relationship to a signed painting of the same subject of 1667 in the National Gallery in London.[4] Such a link provides, in the compiler's view, insufficient grounds for ascribing the present work to him also. Furthermore, the style differs markedly from the majority of the drawings of this kind that have been attributed to him.[5]

[1] Conceivably the drawing sold at the Nicolaas van Bremen sale, Amsterdam, 15ff. Dec. 1766, lot F.532: 'Een Binnehuis, waar in Joseph, Maria met het Kindje, dito [i.e. door Rembrandt]'.
[2] In Exh. London, 1899, no.A87 and later by Hind in London, 1915, no.141.
[3] Inv. no.R72; Rotterdam, 1988, no.69, also as by Barent Fabritius. The comparison made by Sumowski, op. cit.
[4] Sumowski, 'Gemälde', II, no.573, repr.; London, 1991, I, p.134 and II, repr. pl.114.
[5] Of the drawings attributed to Barent Fabritius listed by Sumowski and earlier writers, few have more than a tenuous connection with him. Among the more convincing are the sheets in Stuttgart and Vienna of the 'Naming of the Baptist' (Sumowski 852x and 853x); but according to Sumowski they may be derived from, rather than studies for, his paintings of the same subject in London and Frankfurt (repr. Sumowski, 'Gemälde', nos.552 and 575). But neither drawing, nor the others that have been given to Barent Fabritius in the twentieth century (apart from the Rotterdam study), seem more than generically connected in style with the British Museum's sheet.

Bürger, 1858, p.398 (by Rembrandt); Blanc, II, 1861, p.453 (Rembrandt); Middleton, 1878, p.265, under no.276 (Rembrandt; compared with etching, 'Student at a Table by Candlelight', B.148, H.202); Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.V; London, 1915, no.141, repr. pl.XIX (as Exh. London, 1899); Sumowski, 1979, etc., IV, 1981, no.850x, repr. (by Barent Fabritius; compares especially drawing in Rotterdam, 'Adoration of Shepherds', Sumowski 848x).

holy family (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Virgin Mary (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of St Joseph (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Jesus Christ (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight (as Rembrandt*) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
*Please see n.1 under Comment.

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A87 (by a pupil, perhaps Hoogstraten; probably same hand as cat. no.112, Oo,10.123);
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle (not in catalogue, as 'attributed to Barent Fabritius').

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