The widow's mite (from St Mark, ch. 12, 41-44); a woman seated in the foreground before a column, another woman stands behind at l, to r two women ascending stairs. c.1650-60 Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, heightened with white


© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Oo,10.127

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 109 (anonymous Rembrandt School)
Hind 1915-31 93 (as Rembrandt)

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 Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Circle/School of Rembrandt (anonymous) (biographical details | all objects)
1650-1655 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The widow's mite (Mark 12: 41-44); a woman seated in the foreground before a column, another woman stands behind at left, to right two women ascending stairs. c.1650-55
Pen and brown ink with brown wash, heightened with white; 166 x 115 (a thin sheet, trimmed irregularly and stuck onto a card measuring 174 x 130, onto which a few strokes of the pen extend, and which has a pen and black ink framing line).
Verso: laid down on card; see Inscriptions.
No watermark visible.

Inscription Content: On verso of old backing card, in pen and grey-brown ink: of 'Mr. Backmans [Rademans?] at Antwerp Januari [June?] 9" 1789/ for 10 Gldrs 10 Strs'; above this, in graphite: '55 [in a circle]'.

Height: 174 millimetres (see Description for further measurements)
Width: 130 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 24/25mm apart)

A glue stain down right edge of thinner sheet, which has suffered losses at the edges.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, anonymous Rembrandt School, cat. no.109.
The drawing was acquired as by Rembrandt and accepted as such by most early authorities. It reflects his style as seen in his drawing of 'Homer reciting' of 1652 in the Six Album (Benesch 913), which also has an arched top. Yet the handling is insufficiently close, as has been recognised by most recent commentators (and one earlier one)[1] to sustain an attribution to Rembrandt, and the drawing is presumably a work from his studio, made during the first half of the 1650s.
The subject has generally been identified as the 'Widow's Mite', from Mark 12, xli-xliv and Luke 21, i-iv. The identification depends on the belief that the nearer figure of the widow is putting a coin into a collecting box in the temple. Christ pointed out to his disciples (whose absence from the scene is unusual) that her offering was especially valuable, as she could ill afford it, whereas the rich woman's donation, although larger, created no hardship. Although Rembrandt himself is not known to have treated the subject, it occurs in a painting by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout of 1663 in a private collection in Turin,[2] and in two paintings by Paulus Lesire.[3]

[1] First doubted by Seidlitz, 1894. The drawing was not included by Benesch, 1954-7/73.
[2] See Sumowski, 'Gemälde', II, 1983, no.437, repr. p.800.
[3] Cevat collection, dated 1632, and Dordrechts Museum; see op. cit., III, 1983, no.1137, repr. p.1718, and V, 1990, no.2118, repr. p.3260.

Bürger, 1858, p.400 (Rembrandt; subject not identified); Michel, 1893, pp.581-2 (Rembrandt; of 'Widow's Mite'); Seidlitz, 1894, p.122 (attribution doubtful; of 'Widow's Mite'); Kleinmann, III, 1; Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.XVII; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.884 (Rembrandt; of 'Widow's Mite'?); Wurzbach, 1910, p.417 (Rembrandt; of 'Widow's Mite'); London, 1915, no.93 (c.1650-60; otherwise as Exh. London, 1899): Valentiner, I, 1924, no.394, repr. (Rembrandt, c.1650; 'Widow's Mite'?); Slive, 1965, I, no.114 (c.1650-55); Exh. London, 1992, p.200, n.2 (school; 'Widow's Mite').

The subject of the drawing was formerly identified as Mary and the prophetess Anna.

new testament (scope note | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Backmans (? of Antwerp) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Mr Backmans [?] of Antwerp, 9 Jan. 1789 (see Inscription); Richard Payne Knight, by whom bequeathed, 1824.

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A77 (Rembrandt; of 'Mary and Prophetess Anna'?);
1938, no.93;
1956, p.26, no.3 (Rembrandt).

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