A young woman seated in an armchair; turned slightly to l, looking down and towards the front, wearing a low-cut dress. c.1654-60 Brush drawing in brown wash, over monotype (?) Verso: Tracing of recto by a later hand Black chalk


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1948,0710.7

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 1174
Royalton-Kisch 2010 52 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 98(a)

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)
1654-1660 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A young woman seated in an armchair; turned slightly to left, looking down and towards the front, wearing a low-cut dress. c.1654-60

Reed pen and brown ink with brown wash; some scraping-out for highlights near the chin; double framing-lines in pen and brown ink.

Verso: tracing of recto.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: No inscriptions.

Height: 163 millimetres
Width: 143 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 22/24mm apart)


Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.52:
The broad, painterly manner of drawing resembles Rembrandt's studies for the 'Syndics of the Drapers' Guild' of 1662, in particular the single figures in Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Benesch 1179-80). Yet the sheet may predate them as is argued by Rembrandt's use of a liquid style in earlier studies for portraits (including that for Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius, here cat. no.37, 1874.0808.2272, Benesch 763), as also by its analogies with the 'Young Woman sleeping' (here cat. no.51; 1895,0915.1279, Benesch 1103), and with the drawings in Stockholm of a 'Woman at a Window' to which it has previously been compared (Benesch 1101-2).[1] The pose resembles Rembrandt's etched portraits of the mid-1650s, including those of 'Thomas Haaring' (Bartsch 274, Hind 287) and 'Arnold Tholinx' (Bartsch 284, Hind 289), and the drawing should be situated between these and the studies for the 'Syndics' of c.1662. A more precise dating is impossible given the rarity of datable drawings from Rembrandt's late years.
The model has often been identified as Hendrickje, which seems possible though by no means certain, and the identification would favour a date c.1654-55 (compare cat. no.51; 1895,0915.1279, Benesch 1103).[2] The costume, in a Renaissance style, suggests that Rembrandt had a particular historical or biblical subject in mind.[3] The figure appears to hold a scroll in her left hand, rather as in the 1635 etching, the 'Great Jewish Bride' (Bartsch 340, Hind 127) for which the subject of 'Esther meditating on the Decree to slay the Jews' has been suggested.[4] Given the woman's regal robes the drawing may have been intended to represent the moment from this episode when Esther decided to risk her life by approaching Ahasuerus to oppose Haman's treacherous intentions towards her people (Esther, IV, 8).[5]

[1] By Benesch, 1957/73, no.1174.
[2] Analogies were seen with Potiphar's wife in the paintings in Washington and Berlin by Clark, 1966 (see Lit. below; his other comparisons seem wide of the mark). The connection with the 'Portrait of Hendrickje' in the National Gallery (Bredius 113), emphasized in Exh. London 1988-9 (see under Exhibitions above) is rendered remote by the differences in pose and the Renaissance costume in the drawing, as well as by the probability that she here holds a scroll in her left hand (see further below).
[3] As suggested by White, 1969 (see Lit. below).
[4] See Kahr, 1966. White, loc. cit., suggested that the model holds a scroll, which improves on the idea that the object is a wine-glass (Popham, 1952I). Other writers, wrongly in the present writer's view, have seen the object as an ill-drawn right arm.
[5] As pointed out by Kahr, loc.cit., subjects from the story of Esther were common in Dutch seventeenth-century art, not least in Rembrandt's own work. A painting of c.1632-3 by Rembrandt, perhaps of the same subject, is in Ottawa (Bredius 494, Corpus A64 with discussion of iconography). Artists and writers in the Dutch Republic saw parallels between the Jewish escape from tyranny and their own successful liberation from the Spanish yoke.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt):
'National Art-Collections Fund Annual Report', 1948, p.19, no.1503 (perhaps Hendrickje; c.1662-3; both ends of quill pen used?); Popham, 1952, p.43; Popham, 1952[I], pp.6-7, repr. fig.III (c.1662-3; from a posed model, not a study for a particular painting; compares Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo; possibly Hendrickje; perhaps a wine-glass in her left hand); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no.1174, repr. fig.1396/1471 (c.1655-56; possibly Hendrickje; Renaissance costume; compares two drawings of 'Woman at a Window', Stockholm, Benesch 1101-2, and cat. no.51; 1895,0915.1279, Benesch 1103); Benesch, 1960, p.26 and no.82, repr. (c.1655-6; costume recalls Titian); White, 1962, pl.22 (c.1655); 'British Museum Report of the Trustees', 1966, p.73 (c.1660-69; possibly Hendrickje); Clark, 1966, p.212, n.23 and p.213, n.6 (c.1656; Rembrandt often created curious foreshortening of arms; same model used for 'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife' paintings in Washington and Berlin, Bredius 523 and 524, in Dresden 'Studies of Two Women', Benesch 1185, and in 'Polish Rider', New York, Bredius 279); Haak, 1969/68, p.272, fig.457 (c.1655-6; perhaps for a painting, but identification as Hendrickje unconvincing); Bonnier, 1970/69, repr. in colour, p.107, fig.73 (c.1655-6); Exh. London, 1969, p.26 (compares etching of 'Arnold Tholinx', Bartsch 284, Hind 289); White, 1969, I, pp.141 and 143 (as Exh. London 1969; probably Hendrickje, Venice inspired; pose resembles painting of an 'Old Man in an Armchair' in London, Bredius 267; model may hold a scroll); Wegner, 1970, p.32 (compares 'Portrait of a Young man', Six coll., and 'Portrait of a Man', Louvre, Benesch 1181-2); Held, 1972, p.13, repr. pl.3 (Venetian style costume, perhaps drawn with some play in mind); Held, 1973, p.55 (as in 1972); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.535; Sciolla, 1976, p.15 and pl.LII (perhaps Hendrickje); Sumowski, V, 1981, under no.1083xx (refutes comparison by Clark, 1966, with Dresden sheet); Royalton-Kisch, 1989 (1990), pp.137-8, repr. fig.17 (not directly related to London painting, Bredius 113); Schatborn, 1994, p.23 (agrees with Exh. London, 1992).

Associated names
Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased through Sotheby's (30.vi.1948/145 where sold for £3000) (biographical details | all objects)
Purchased through Colnaghi (who charged no commission) (biographical details | all objects)
With contribution from Anonymous (all objects)
With contribution from The Art Fund (as NACF) (biographical details | all objects)
Purchased from Anonymous (all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (? his sale, London, Christie's, 7.vi.1860/774 as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - A female seated, in an attit) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era. Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, 30 June, 1948, lot 145, bought P. & D. Colnaghi for BM, with contributions from the National Art-Collections Fund and an anonymous donor (Count Seilern). It is most likely the drawing mentioned in a postcard written by Popham on holiday in France on July 12 to his friend James Byam-Shaw, the Director of Colnaghi: 'Thank you very much for your letter and for getting the drawing. In a way it is satisfactory to find out [an] estimate so exactly fulfilled. I met Lugt in Paris the day before the sale and told him we were going for it, as he thought of doing so himself and he said he would stand down'. [A photocopy of the card among others sent by Popham to JBS are kept with Popham's notebooks in the P&D stationary cupboard.]

Exhibition History
London, 1956, p.8 and no.8;
London, 1965, no.23 (reed pen; quotes Benesch);
Amsterdam, 1969, no.131 (c.1655-60; probably Hendrickje, comparing London painting, Bredius 437; unusual as a preparatory drawing, the Renaissance costume suggesting a biblical subject or portrait historié; quotes Popham, 1952[I]);
London, 1974, no.108;
London, National Gallery, 1988-9, 'Art in the Making: Rembrandt', under no.13, p.108, repr. fig.84 (possibly an early study for 'Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels in a Chair', Bredius 113, London; the X-radiograph of the painting supports this view);
1992, BM, 'Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle', no.59, repr. in colour (c.1654-60; perhaps represents Esther);
Edinburgh-London, NG Scotland/Royal Academy 2001-2, 'Rembrandt's Women', no.124, repr. in colour (as Exh. London, 1992);
London, Hayward Gallery, ('Saved! 100 Years of the National Art-Collections Fund'), no.65.

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