A woman (probably Saskia) lying awake in bed; head and shoulders only, her r hand supporting her head, the other arm resting on bedcovers. c.1635-40 Pen and brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • Full: FrontFull: Front

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1264

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 15 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 286
Hind 1915-31 53
JCR 792

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)

A woman lying awake in bed; head and shoulders only, her right hand supporting her head, the other arm resting on bedcovers. c.1635-1640
Pen and brown ink
Verso: laid down
No watermark visible

Inscription Content: Inscribed lower right, in graphite: ‘10 [or 16?]’ on backing, in graphite: ‘792’ and other digits (775?) erased; lower right, in pen and brown ink, in Esdaile’s hand: ‘1855.’

Height: 84 millimetres (chain lines uncertain, perhaps 26mm apart and vertical)
Width: 104 millimetres

Generally good, though with some surface dirt; the sheet has been trimmed irregularly (perhaps cutting away another figure – see text under Comment) and is stuck down on another, more rectangular one; this was done before the application of Esdaile’s mark (applied in 1835; see Inscriptions and the drawing now attributed to Van den Eeckhout [cat. no.18; 1895,0915.1263]; both sheets are further stuck down on a card, perhaps the remnant of a larger mat.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.15:
The model was almost certainly the artist's wife Saskia, whom he married in 1634. She died in 1642. Rembrandt appears to have concentrated on the drapery rather than the likeness, which makes a secure identification difficult. Nevertheless, the figure resembles Saskia as seen in other drawings, some of which also show her in bed (e.g. Benesch nos.281A in Oxford, in which the clothes appear to be the same, and 280C in the Princes Gate collection now at the Courtauld Institute, in which the resemblance is clear and the pose and expression of the face similar). The semicircular shape at the lower centre edge may be the top of the head of a figure now cut away (cf. the Munich drawing of 'Saskia in Bed, with an attendant Nurse', Benesch no.405). A drawing in Rotterdam of a 'Recumbent Woman in a Landscape' (Benesch 285), now ascribed to Ferdinand Bol,[1] shows a figure in an analogous pose.
Reclining figures reminiscent of these drawings appear in two of Rembrandt's etchings of the later 1630s, the 'Joseph telling his Dreams' of 1638 (Bartsch 37, Hind 160) and the 'Death of the Virgin' of 1639 (Bartsch 99, Hind 161). Two more studies of Saskia appear in the etched 'Sheet of Studies, with a Woman lying ill in Bed', dated by Hind (his no.163, Bartsch 369) c.1639 but now thought to be from c.1641-2.[2] The style of the British Museum's drawing is compatible with works of the period to which these works belong, c.1635-40, but it may date from nearer the middle of the decade than the end.
The pose of the head resting on the hand, repeated in many of Rembrandt's drawings of Saskia, is a feature of personifications of Melancholia, a theme that may have been in the artist's mind when he made them.[3]

[1] See Rotterdam, 1988, no.46. The landscape was added by another hand.
[2] The date suggested by Münz, 1952, no.96, and adhered to by White and Boon, 1969, no. B369. The earlier date remains plausible. The comparison suggested by Hind, 1912 and in Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956 (see Lit. below).
[3] As suggested by Ozaki, 1984.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Robinson, 1869/76, no.771/792; Kleinmann, IV, no.13; Valentiner, 1905, p.40 (1640s; of Geertje Dircx); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.934; Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; Hind, 1912/24, I, under no.163 (compares etching, see n.2 above); London, 1915, no.53, repr. pl.IX (c.1635-40); Benesch, 1925, reprinted 1970, p.88 (relates to group of similar studies); Van Dyke, 1927, p.77, repr. pl.XV, fig.59 (Flinck, for etching also by Flinck); Paris, 1933, p-24, under no.1171 (c.1638-42; compares Louvre drawing, Benesch 284); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.693, repr. (c.1640); Benesch, II, 1954/73, no.286, repr. fig.314/344 (c.1635); Parker, 1954, p.59 (compares drawings of same subject in Oxford, Benesch 281A, and Paris, Dutuit, Benesch 283); Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, p.62, under no.50 (see n.2 above); Sumowski, 1956-7, p.255 (c.1635); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961, p.25 (c.1639-40); London, 1961, I, p.19, under no.184 (groups with Benesch 280C in Seilern coll.); White, 1962, repr. pl.16 (c.1635); White, 1969, I, p.159n (possibly related to etching of 'Death of the Virgin', Bartsch 99, Hind 161); Exh. New York-Paris, 1977-8, p.127, n.6 (relates to other drawings of same subject); Ozaki, 1984, repr. fig.10 (gesture of Melancholy – see commentary above); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], p.78 and n.3; Haverkamp-Begemann, 1992, p.463; Giltaij, 1995, p.98 (by a pupil; possibly an early copy); Exh. Melbourne-Canberra, 1997-8, pp.115 and 130, repr. fig.14a (dates to late 1640s and to c.1635 [!]; compares pose in painting in Edinburgh, Bredius 110); Exh. Amsterdam-London, 2000-2001, p.183, repr. fig.c (dates c.1639).

Literature after Royalton-Kisch 2010: Holm Bevers, review of Martin Royalton-Kisch catalogue, in The Burlington Magazine (2013), p.103 (as workshop of Rembrandt).

Associated names
Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (? 7.vi.1860/769 as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - A female model, on a couch - broad bistre pen' bt Roupell) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Sir John Charles Robinson (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Malcolm of Poltalloch (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Sir Thomas Lawrence (L.2445) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection William Esdaile (L.2617) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Thomas Lawrence (L.2445; possibly case 1, drawer 2, no.44, in inventory of his collection prior to its dispersal: ‘Female in bed, pen, delicately touched’); William Esdaile (L.2617; he purchased all Lawrence’s 100 Rembrandts exhibited in the Lawrence Gallery exhibition in 1835 for £1,500; this sheet was presumably one of the 50 not individually described in the catalogue); Esdaile’s sale, Christie’s, 17 June, 1840, lot 16: ‘A Woman in bed, musing’, bt Tiffin 9s; with lot 17 (here attributed to Van den Eeckhout [cat. no.18; 1895,0915.1263]); J. C. Robinson (according to Robinson, 1869 ed.); John Malcolm of Poltalloch; purchased with his collection, 1895.

Exhibition History
1835, London, Lawrence Gallery, 1835 (see under Provenance);
1878-9, London, Grosvenor Gallery, no.323;
1895, London, British Museum, no.377b (probably not Saskia).
1899, London, British Museum, no.A26;
1938, London, British Museum, no.53 (c.1635-40);
1956, London, British Museum, p.19, no.10;
1992, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.19, repr. in colour;
2001-2, Edinburgh-London, 'Rembrandt's Women', p.126, no.44.

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.