Coriolanus and the Roman matrons; a throng of soldiers on horseback and on elephants, a group of bound (?) figures kneeling on the ground to r. c.1655-60 Pen and brown ink, touched with grey and brown wash, on buff prepared paper


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1943,1113.69

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 1045(a)
Royalton-Kisch 2010 54 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 Add.188

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)
1655-1660 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Pyrrhus pardoning captives and releasing them to Fabricius; a throng of soldiers on horseback and on elephants, a group of bound (?) figures kneeling on the ground to right. c.1655-60

Reed pen and brown ink with brown wash; unruled framing lines in the same medium; some accidental blotches of grey, mostly in the right half of the sheet.

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, in graphite, top left: '5353'; and lower right: 'Rembrandt' and a price, erased.

Height: 193 millimetres
Width: 251 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 23mm apart)

Much creased and faded; some repairs near the edges; accidental grey blotches, mostly in right half of the sheet; has suffered from damp and may have been immersed in water.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.54:
The subject is from Plutarch's 'Lives': Pyrrhus, King of Epirus (modern Albania) arrived in Southern Italy in 280 BC to assist the Tarentines in their defence against the Romans. Despite some successes, he was eventually forced to retire from Italy. But he was involved several times in negotiations which led to the release of prisoners. In the second such parley, the Roman officer Fabricius led the delegation, Pyrrhus unsuccessfully attempted to buy him with gold, and to frighten him with an elephant (he had never seen one). But the third episode is represented here, in which Pyrrhus, having been warned by Fabricius of a plot to assassinate him, released prisoners in gratitude, and sent his advisor, Cineas, to Rome as a negotiator.[2]
In the drawing, Pyrrhus is recognizable from his helmet, with a plume and goat-horns. Fabricius is seen in profile to the left of him, and Cineas, the bearded advisor, to the right. The group of soldiers to the left, one on horseback, are probably the guard sent by Pyrrhus to escort Fabricius to and from his camp. Two episodes from the 'Life of Pyrrhus' (although not this one) were chosen for the decoration of the new Town Hall (now Royal Palace) in Amsterdam, and it is possible that the present design, although unused, was made in association with that project. In this case the drawing would date from c.1655-56, when the dedication and construction of the Town Hall were undertaken.
The heads, particularly of the kneeling figures to the right, are abbreviated to circles in the same way as those in the study in the Amsterdam Historisch Museum related to the painting, in the same Museum (both have frequently been housed in the Rijksmuseum), of the 'Anatomy Lesson of Dr Deyman' of 1656 (Benesch 1175). This is also suggestive for dating the drawing and means that, like other drawings of historical or biblical subject matter of similar style, including the 'Return of the Prodigal Son' in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Benesch 1011), and the 'Ark of Noah' in Chicago (Benesch 1045), it appears to date from before c.1660, when Rembrandt's penwork became yet more summary.[3] The drawing also exhibits similarities, especially in the continuous shading seen here on the banner to the left and on the rostrum in the centre, with the 'Susannah and the Elders' in Berlin (Benesch 977).[4] A drawing in Rotterdam, which probably represents 'Coriolanus receiving the Deputation from the Roman Senate' (Benesch 1034), is inseparable from the present drawing in style and may conceivably have been made in series with it.[5]

[1] The drawing was given the Hind 'Additional' no.188. A note, probably by A.E. Popham, inscribed in MS in the Department's copy of Hind's catalogue, suggests a date in the 1660s and related the composition to the drawing in Munich, Benesch Ad 1045A, mentioned above. The subject was given as 'Titus Manlius condemning his Son to Death'.
[2] The subject was precisely identified by Golahny, 2002, following the suggestion of Benesch, 1959 (see Literature below). She further argues (in Golahny, 2003) that Plutarch's account would have been known to the artist through the translation of his 'Life of Pyrrhus' published by A. van Nyvelt in 1603, reprinted in 1644; an abridged translation by M. Everart was published in 1601; and that Rembrandt was influenced by Gottfried's 'Chronicle' published in 1630, a copy of which he may well have owned (as suggested by his inventory of 1656); Tümpel, 1968 (see Lit. below) had identified the scene as 'Coriolanus and the Roman Matrons', the story related by Livy, II, 40 and Plutarch, XII, 34-36; the idea was in part prompted by the resemblance to a painting of the subject by Pieter Lastman, Rembrandt's teacher, now in Dublin (repr. Bauch, 1960, p.98, fig.61).
[3] Compare, for example, the 'Simeon' of 1661 in the Heyblock album, The Hague, Benesch 1057, the Berlin composition sketch for the 'Syndics of the Drapers' Guild', Benesch 1178, of 1662, and the Stockholm 'Homer dictating' of 1663, Benesch 1066. A painting by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout of 1658, now in Toledo, which represents the 'Continence of Scipio', may also provide a pointer to the date of the British Museum's drawing, as its composition is comparable in general terms (repr. Manuth, 1998, p.145, fig.6).
[4] The Berlin drawing was attributed by Sumowski to Nicolaes Maes (Sumowski, VIII, 1984, no.1966bx), in my view unconvincingly. It was also accepted as Rembrandt's work by Schatborn (e.g. in Amsterdam, 1985, under nos.36 and 48) but omitted in Berlin, 2006.
[5] The drawing was rejected from Rembrandt's oeuvre by Giltaij in Rotterdam, 1988, no.164, but retained by the present writer (in 1990, p.133). Giltaij misrepresented Benesch's suggestion for the drawing's subject: he did not believe that it showed the later delegation of Roman matrons.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt except Giltaij, 1995):
Popham, 1952, p.43 ('Scene from Roman History'); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no.1045A, repr. fig.1262/1330 (c.1659-60; perhaps a painting envisaged; subject from life of Pyrrhus); Benesch, 1959, pp.321-2, repr. fig.1, reprinted 1970, pp.221-2 (c.1659-60; subject is from 'Life of Pyrrhus'; compares Ark in Chicago drawing, Benesch 1045; basis in a lost composition of 1640s reflected in pupil's drawings in Munich, Benesch Ad1045A, on which see above, and the 'Thetis and Achilles', Pierpont Morgan Library, Benesch A45; monumentality foreshadows the 'Claudius Civilis' painting in Stockholm, Bredius 482; subject from Plutarch, ch.LIX); Sumowski, 1961, p.20 (could be as early as 1655 - cf. 'Quintus Fabius Maximus', Berlin, Benesch 956, 'Presentation' and 'Coriolanus' both in Rotterdam, Benesch 1032 and 1034; perhaps a study for a painting in Amsterdam Town Hall, the commission later being given to Bol); White, 1962, pl.8 (c.1660); Tümpel, 1968, pp.48-50 (subject 'Coriolanus receiving the Roman Matrons', based on Lastman painting in Dublin, from Livy, II, 40); Fuchs, 1973, p.82, repr. fig.36 (c.1660; summary execution); Broos, 1975-6, pp.224-5, repr. fig.26 (as Tümpel, 1968); Broos, 1977, p.118 (erroneously quoting Kieser, 1941); Sumowski, III, 1980, under nos.814-15xx (as Benesch, 1959); Tümpel, 1986, repr. p.49 (c.1659-60; as Tümpel, 1968); Exh. Amsterdam, 1991-2, pp.82 and 127, under no.20, p.83, fig.31 and p.124, fig.20.1 (as Tümpel, 1967); Schatborn, 1994, p.23; Giltaij, 1995, pp.100-1 (inconceivable for Rembrandt; conceivably by Maes); Broos, 2000, p.4, repr. fig.3 (Lastman's 'Coriolanus' painting now known to date from 1625-6, when Rembrandt was studying with him; the drawing shows its continuing influence [but is still identified as representing 'Coriolanus']); Exh. Kassel-Amsterdam, 2001-2, p.141, repr. fig.6d (not a copy from Lastman; perhaps a sketch for a painting); Golahny, 2002, pp.243-8 (1655-60; represents Pyrrhus pardoning Captives and releasing them to Fabricius; possibly connected to Town Hall decorations); Golahny, 2003, pp.191-5, repr. fig.56 (as Golahny, 2002; see further n.2 above); Golahny, 2003[I], pp.83-91, repr. fig.3 (as Golahny 2003; perhaps a critique of Bol's designs for Town Hall); Berlin, 2006, pp.170 and 180, under no.49 and 53 (compares Berlin drawings, Benesch 1175 and 1141).

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Donated by Eric Rose (See n.1 under Comment) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Fred W Rose (biographical details | all objects)

Exhibition History
1992, London, no.61, repr. in colour (c.1655-60; probably represents Coriolanus);
2004 April-June, Vienna, Albertina, 'Rembrandt', no.131, repr.

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