The artist drawing from a female model; the woman seen from behind, standing on a raised platform with drapery over her r arm, the artist in shadow beyond. c.1639 Pen and brown ink and brown wash Verso: Joseph expounding the prisoners' dreams Pen and brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • VersoVerso
  • RectoRecto

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Gg,2.248

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 24 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 423
Hind 1915-31 69

Dutch Roy XVIIc

Back to search results

Back to catalogue

Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The artist drawing from the model; woman seen from behind, standing on a raised platform with drapery over her right arm, the artist in shadow beyond. c.1639
Pen and brown iron-gall ink with brown wash and touched with white, on paper washed brown
Verso: Joseph expounding the Prisoners' Dreams
Pen and brown iron-gall ink
No watermark

Inscription Content: Verso: inscribed in pen and black ink, ‘248.’ (the inventory number).

Height: 188 millimetres
Width: 164 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 23mm apart)

Generally good; the paper cracked along an old vertical crease, lower left, across the ankles of the model and near the artist’s left hand; perhaps trimmed on all but the left side, as suggested by a comparison with the related etching; the surface abraded to left on the recto and lower left and right of verso; the iron-gall ink has run, considerably obscuring the details in parts, particularly on the right-hand side of the recto; it may also have darkened, even recently, to judge from the reproduction in Lippmann I, 110 and Hamann, 1906 (see Lit. under Comment).

Curator's comments
Literature: P. Schatborn, in H. Bevers et.al. 'Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils: Telling the Difference', exh.cat. The J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009, cat.no.7.1 (as Rembrandt; verso).

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.24:

The recto is related, in reverse, to Rembrandt's unfinished etching, the 'Artist drawing from the Model' (Bartsch 192, Hind 231; for a first state impression see 1895,1214.111). The drawing is usually dated c.1639 because of its stylistic and technical proximity to the 'Study for the Portrait of Maria Trip' (cat. no.23; 1891,0713.9): both are executed in iron-gall ink, a medium which Rembrandt seems to have favoured at this period.[1] By association the print is now usually dated to the same year, although its date and attribution have aroused controversy in the past.[2]
In the drawing, the artist appears to be left-handed, suggesting that the reversal in making the print was anticipated. The outlines are not indented for transfer to the copper plate and it is possible that the study, like cat. no.23 (1891,0713.9), which it resembles so closely in style, was made as a project for the etching's completion rather than before work had commenced on the copper plate. The contrast in handling with the preparatory pen-and-ink sketch of 'Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius' (cat. no.37; 1874,0808.2272) for the etched portrait of 1646, which is more freely drawn and must have preceded work on the plate, also supports the idea that the present sheet was not made until after the etching had been begun. The outline indications on the copper, made in drypoint rather than etching, are surprisingly tentative for Rembrandt, almost inexplicable had he been following a preparatory study. In the print several features remain unresolved, in particular the length of the nude's legs. Two sets of feet are drawn and in the second state (see F,5.140) the platform is consolidated beneath the lower pair. The drawing, probably executed after the second state, revises the elevation of the platform to coincide, more convincingly, with the upper feet. It also simplifies the foreground by the elimination of chairs and other studio props, shows a more clearly defined position for the artist himself and completes the shading of the lower half of the composition. Rembrandt was therefore probably working on the drawing while studying a counterproof of his etching (which would have been in the same direction as the image, both in the sketch and on the copper plate itself). Counterproofs of the second state survive in Cambridge and Vienna (according to Hollstein; none are recorded of the first state). The suggestion that the print was left unfinished intentionally in order to instruct Rembrandt's pupils in the elaboration of a composition, while possible, is highly speculative. The existence of two progressive states also argues against the supposition, as does the drawing, in which the design is complete. It may be that Rembrandt abandoned the composition for aesthetic or technical reasons.[3]
Iconographically, the recto and the related print can be compared with a slightly later etching by Rembrandt, the 'Man drawing from a Cast' (Bartsch 130, Hind 191; see 1843,0607.86), of c.1641-2.[4] In the present case an allegorical intent seems probable, one that involved the visual arts: the contents of the studio represent painting, drawing and sculpture. The nude holds a palm and the room is decorated with weaponry. These and other details are often clearer in the etching, in which the composition encompasses a slightly broader view, than in the drawing, which has suffered from the acidic action on the paper of the iron-gall ink. The print includes a table behind[5] and a chair in front of the artist, a second chair behind the models and (in the first state only) a press in front of the canvas.[6] In the eighteenth century, as Yver, 1756, first recorded, the print was entitled 'Pygmalion'. This identification has been revived and a convincing connection made with a print of this subject by Pieter Feddes van Harlingen (Holl.21, repr.).[7] It has also been argued that the print is an allegorical glorification of the art of drawing: the studio, of a standard type, would represent Pictura, the model Venus with the palm of honour. Further analogies have been seen between the nude and the figure of Victory, also holding a palm, in Jacopo de' Barbari's engraving of 'Fame and Victory' (Bartsch 18).[8] The print's unfinished state would be an expression of the fundamental importance of drawing, a revelation of the working methods of Rembrandt's art.[9] Yet according to Ovid ('Metamorphoses', X, 243-97), the legendary King Pygmalion of Cyprus was making a statue of Venus, not Victory, when it was transformed into a living creature; and the pose of Rembrandt's nude resembles well-known antique statues of Venus, including the Venus de' Medici (now in the Uffizi but from the Villa Medici in Rome) and the 'Venus felix' in the Vatican, both of which inspired admiration in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The 'Venus felix' holds both her drapery and her head in much the same attitude as the figure in Rembrandt's print.[10] It seems reasonable to suppose that Rembrandt was aware of the relationship between his image and classical precedent, including the Pygmalion story, and that his allegory may have involved the well-worn theme of the transformation of 'Natura' (the nude) into 'Ars' (represented by the artist and his canvas, and perhaps also the sculpture). But his precise intentions, especially in including the palm of victory, remain unclear.[11]
The subject of the verso, from Genesis XL, 1-20, was treated by Rembrandt in a much later drawing in the Rijksmuseum of the early 1650s (Benesch 912).[12] The purpose of the present sketch is unknown. The composition shows the baker responding to Joseph's speech while the butler listens passively, roles that are reversed in the Amsterdam drawing. Their head-dresses – the butler's feathered cap and the baker's flat cap – and to some extent the design of the composition and the interior, suggest that Rembrandt knew Lucas van Leyden's print of the same subject (Bartsch 22), further details of which are used in the Amsterdam version. Joseph stands at the base of a spiral staircase, a motif often encountered in Rembrandt's work (see also the verso of the drawing now attributed to Van den Eeckhout, cat. no.19; 1859,0806.72). Another drawing of the subject, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. 95.GA.18) and likewise executed in iron-gall ink, was presumably made immediately after the present sheet. It repeats the three main figures, with a second version of the baker sketched above. Joseph is shown with his left arm raised, following the correction in the British Museum's sketch. The baker and butler are more fully described and the pose of the latter, now bareheaded, is altered radically, being half turned to face the spectator.[13]
Rembrandt's treatments of the subject inspired several images by his pupils (including Willem Drost cat. no.3; 1855,1013.39 and also the anonymous school drawing, Gg,2.249).[14]
The recto was etched by Jan Weissenbruch in Vosmaer, 1877, opposite p.282.

[1] See Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, p.24. The drawings tend to be prepared with brown wash and to be on paper of the same type, as is also the case in cat. nos.28-30.
[2] The etching is now generally accepted as Rembrandt's work. Together with the drawing, which has been known to fewer writers, it was generally placed after c.1645 until Benesch, 1923, p.1011, n.14, although Seymour Haden also dated the print c.1639 in Exh. London, 1877, no.62 (but believed the etched part to be by Ferdinand Bol, an attribution followed by several later scholars). A summary, with literature, is in Münz, 1952, under no.339. The chronology proved awkward for Hofstede de Groot, 1906, and Valentiner, 1925 and 1934, who attempted to differentiate the dates of the recto and the verso (see Lit. below).
[3] See Schatborn, 1986, for the idea that the etching was made as a model for the elaboration of a composition. He also notes the lack of indentations in the drawing. Hinterding (in Paris, 2008 - see Lit. below) notes that the etching plate was only printed a few times before languishing for ten years or more prior to being reprinted - a reason to suspect that Rembrandt was initially displeased with the result.
[4] As noted by Slatkes, 1973.
[5] Schatborn, 1986, saw that there is a peacock, symbol of Pride, on the table.
[6] White, 1969, thought the press a linen press. Slatkes, 1973, thought it of the screw-down type for pressing (not printing) paper.
[7] By Saxl, 1910. There is no impression in the British Museum.
[8] First noted by Saxl, loc. cit.
[9] Emmens, 1964, pp.159-63.
[10] See Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, 'Taste and the Antique', New Haven and London, 1981, pp.323-8, nos.87-8, repr. figs.172-3. Probably coincidentally, frontal views of both statues were published by Francois Perrier in 1638, just one year before Rembrandt's print and drawing. The pose of the nude also resembles, in reverse, Rembrandt's study in the J. Paul Getty Museum of a 'Woman with a Snake (Cleopatra?)' of c.1637 (Benesch 137), in which the figure is again seen from the front (see Malibu, 1988, no.114). Still closer is the 'Female Nude' in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Benesch 713), described as a school drawing corrected by Rembrandt by Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, p.114, n.9 and in Budapest, 2005, p.216, no.208.
[11] For a further discussion of the iconography see Bevers in Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam, 1991-2, pp.206-8, no.15.
[12] See Amsterdam, 1985, no.42.
[13] The sheet, which has been prepared with brown wash, measures 200 x 187. The left section, containing the figure of Joseph, is on a separate piece of paper, pasted onto the original sheet after the other figures had been sketched (see Malibu, 2001, no.48).
[14] Loc. cit. Several sheets are reproduced by Valentiner, I, 1925, nos.107-12.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt, recto related to etching Bartsch 192, Hind 231, unless otherwise stated):
Bürger, 1858, p.396; Middleton, 1877, p.18; Vosmaer, 1877, pp.VI, 283 and 545, with etched repr. of recto by Weissenbruch opposite p.282 (c.1646-8); Middleton, 1878, p.269, under no.284 (c.1647); Dutuit, I, 1883, p.213, under no. 189 and iv, 1885, p.86; Michel, 1893, pp.324-5 and 581 (c.1647); Seidlitz, 1894, p.121 (1640s); Seidlitz, 1895, p.117, under no.192 (c.1647); Lippmann, I, no.110; Kleinmann, IV, nos.15-16; Valentiner, 1905 p.46 (c.1647; recto shows Hendrickje); Bode and Valentiner, 1906, p.73, repr.; Hamann, 1906, p.300, repr. (c.1647? [the reproduction valuable for studying details of the drawing now obscure]); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.939 (recto c.1647 and for the etching; the verso c.1635); Schmidt-Degener, 1906, p.112 (nude based on Jordaens' 'Allegory of Plenty', Brussels); Singer, 1906, p.276, under no.219 (the print by a pupil); Baldwin Brown, 1907, p.146; Exh. Paris, 1908, p.60, under no.164 (c.1648, for etching); Saxl, 1908, p.233 (not necessarily Hendrickje, refuting Valentiner, 1905); Becker, 1909, pp.38-9, repr. Pl.1 (verso discussed; focus on drama of a single moment); Saxl, 1910, pp.42-3, the recto repr. fig.3 (subject 'Pygmalion'; influence of etching of this subject by Pieter Feddes and of Jacopo de' Barbari's 'Fame and Victory'); Veth, 1910, pp.142-3, repr.; Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; Hofstede de Groot, 1912, p.71, repr. (c.1635-40; compares Rijksmuseum's 'Saskia's Lying-in Room', Benesch 404); Hind, 1912/24, I, p.62/31, and under no.231, repr. pl.XXVIII/IX (late, 1648 or later; in reverse to etching which he believes by Rembrandt unlike many earlier writers); Hofstede de Groot, 1915[I], p.91; London, 1915, no.69, the verso repr. pl.VII (as in Hind, 1912); Neumann, 1918, p.107 (agrees with HdG); Graul, 1920, p.38, under no.205; Seidlitz, 1922, p.176, under no.192 (the print c.1648; follows Saxl, 1910, and Valentiner, 1905); Graul, 1924, no.42, recto repr. (c.1650); Valentiner, I, 1925, no.108, repr. (the verso only; c.1645 or earlier, c.1640/41; the recto also probably before 1642); Benesch, 1925[I], p.124, reprinted 1970, p.50, the verso repr. fig.86 (end of 1630s, when an abrupt change in style); Bauch, 1926, pp.62-3, n.44 (based on some graphic reproduction of Capitoline Venus); Weisbach, 1926, p.65 and p.616, n.1 (not drawn from nature; not based on Feddes as Saxl, 1910, suggested, nor on Capitoline Venus, as Bauch, 1926, thought, as only discovered later [N.B. the Capitoline Venus differs little from the Venus de' Medici discussed above]); Van Dyke, 1927, pp.51 and 58, recto repr. pl.VII (by Bol, as also the etching; the verso for Bol's painting in Schwerin – since rejected by Blankert, 1982, no.D1 – and related to his drawing in Hamburg of same subject, Sumowski 101); Hind, 1932, p.40 (relates to Budapest nude study, Benesch 713); Paris, 1933, p.27, under no.1181 (lists other drawings of the studio); Benesch, 1933-4, p.299, the verso repr. fig.248, reprinted 1970, p.118, fig.86 (Rembrandt eliminates subsidiary detail by this period); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.800, repr. (the recto only; c.1640; the figure of the artist added c.1665, when the etching made [a now rejected theory based on the identification of the print with one mentioned by Titus in the document Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, no.1665/6, q.v.]); Benesch, 1935, p.28 (1639; compares verso with 'Liberation of St Peter', Benesch 170, priv. coll.); Benesch, 1935[I], p.264; Benesch, 1947, no.101, repr. (1639; compares Benesch 442, here cat. no.23; 1891,0713.9; female fig. inspired by Lastman and Pynas); van Guldener, 1947, p.43 (as Rembrandt?) and p.45 (as not Rembrandt); Hamann, 1948, p.333, repr. fig.229 (c.1647?; nude resembles Capitoline Venus); Münz, 1952, II, under no.339, repr. pl.24b (both drawing and print by Eeckhout, early 1640s; artist shown using a perspective apparatus); Boeck, 1953, p.203 (in reverse, like most drawings for etchings); Benesch, 1954/73, II, no.423, figs.481-2/509-10 (as in 1935 and 1947; further compares 'Darab sheltered by the ruined Vault', Berlin, Benesch 171; verso also compared to 'Unidentified Scene', Benesch 351 verso, and to 'Calling of St Matthew', Benesch 144, both Stockholm, the hands to 'Sheet of Studies', Benesch 381, priv. coll., and 'Nurse with a Baby', Benesch 382, Paris, Fondation Custodia); Biörklund and Barnard, 1955, p.74, under no.BB39-2; Exh. Amsterdam-Rotterdam, 1956, p.20, under no.40 (c.1639 for etching); Exh. Vienna, 1956, p.58, under no.192; Exh. Warsaw, 1956, p.109, under no.177 (Eeckhout); White, 1956, p.124, repr. fig.34 (rejects Münz's 1952 attribution); Sumowski, 1956-7, p.258 (verso not Rembrandt and compared [not convincingly] to Widener collection school drawing, V.17, now National Gallery, Washington); Drost, 1957, p.179 (compares Elsheimer); Gerson, 1957[I], p.148 (c.1639-40; rejects Münz, 1952; as Hind, 1932, relates to 'Female Nude', Budapest, Benesch 713, which Gerson dates c.1636; the artist represented not necessarily a self-portrait); Sumowski, 1962, p.30, n.26 (refutes Münz, 1952); White, 1962, repr. pl.24 (c.1639); Emmens, 1964, pp.159-63; Erpel, 1967, no.136, repr. (c.1639-40); Slive, 1965, I, no.112, the recto repr. (c.1640); White, 1969, I, p.160 n., p.162 and p.178, repr. II, fig.239 (recto only; a study of layout and lighting for the etching); White and Boon, 1969, I, p.92, under no.B192; Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.104 (tentatively supports Münz, 1952); Exh. Vienna, 1970-71, p.73, under no.116; Slatkes, 1973, p.259 (c.1641; perhaps significant that etched 'Man drawing from a Cast', Bartsch 130, Hind 191, was also made at this time; follows Emmens, 1964, but sees Pygmalion imagery as related; the model resembles statuette in engraving of 1578 by Cornelis Cort after Stradanus, 'Art Academy', Holl.218, repr.); White, 1973, p.138 (patterns of light differ in etching); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. pp.254-5; Ember, 1979, p.115 and p.124, repr. fig.27 (perhaps by B.G. Cuyp and influenced his painting of the 'Liberation of St Peter' in Kassel); Amsterdam, 1985, p.24, under no.10, n.7 and p.92, under no.42 [verso only] (c.1639; groups with other sheets in same ink – see above; verso: compares Amsterdam sheet Benesch 912 of same subject and notes inspiration of Lucas van Leyden and influence on Rembrandt's pupils); Exh. Amsterdam, 1985-6, no.55, repr. (reproduction exhibited; follows Emmens, 1964); Exh. Paris, 1986, p.123, under no.62; Schatborn, 1986, pp.18-19, repr. fig.1 (not from life; based on Jacopo de' Barbari; follows Emmens, 1964; see also nn.3 and 5 above); Sumowski, 'Gemälde', IV, 1989, p.2600, under no.1738 ('attrib. to' Rembrandt; verso inspired painting of the subject by Victors in Rijksmuseum); Exh. Amsterdam, 1991, p.128 (made in same direction as Jacopo de' Barbari's print); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], pp.206-8, repr, fig.15d (follows Exh. London 1992); Royalton-Kisch, 1993[I], pp.181-2 (as Exh. London, 1992); Exh. Edinburgh-London, 2001, p.157, under no.75, repr. fig.118; Malibu, 2001, p.139, under no.48, verso repr. fig.48a; Exh. Boston-Chicago, 2003-4, pp.154-5; Budapest, 2005, p.216, under no.208 (compares Budapest drawing of 'Standing female Nude', Benesch 713); Berlin, 2006, p.73, under no.15, p.76, under no.16, p.88, under no.20 and p.197 (compares Berlin drawings, Benesch 171, 180, 178 and 203); Sluijter, 2006, p.285, repr. p.283, fig.259 (as Exh. London, 1992, agrees that Rembrandt's first intention was to complete the etching); Exh. Paris, 2006-7[II], p.159, under no.60, repr. fig.105; Paris, 2008, p.342, under no.149 (see n.3 above).

self-portrait (all objects)
old testament (all objects)
artist studio (all objects)

Associated names
Portrait of Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Joseph (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode (biographical details | all objects)

Exhibition History
1899, London, no.A51 (placed with drawings c.1646);
1938, no.69;
1956, p.9, no.7;
1992, no.27
2000/1, Amsterdam-London, pp.71, repr. fig.12, 160, n.5, and 174, repr. p.178, fig.c.
2009/10 Dec-Feb, Los Angeles, J Paul Getty Museum, Rembrandt and pupils, VERSO
2016 12 Feb-14 May, Amsterdam, Museum het Rembrandthuis, Drawing Nude Models. Rembrandt and his Contemporaries

Noticed a mistake? Have some extra information about this object? Please contact us

To bookmark this page select "Bookmark this page" or "Add to favourites" from the web browser menu.