A seated old man and a woman (Jacob and Rachel); the man wearing a flat velvet cap and long mantle trimmed with fur, a stick between his knees, a recess in the wall behind at right, with rough sketch of a dog below right.  c.1640-1645  Pen and brown ink w


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • RectoRecto

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1861,0608.149

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 528
Hind 1915-31 58 (as Rembrandt)
Royalton-Kisch 2010 74 (attributed to 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
Attributed to Govert Flinck (?) (biographical details | all objects)
Attributed to Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
1640-1645 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A seated old man and a woman (Jacob and Rachel); the man wearing a flat velvet cap and long mantle trimmed with fur, a stick between his knees, a recess in the wall behind at right, with rough sketch of a dog below right. c.1640-1645
Pen and brown ink with brown wash, touched with white (oxidised)
Verso: laid down on backing paper (but see Inscriptions)
No watermark

Inscription Content: Verso: in pen and brown ink, upper centre, '£3-10-.' (this is partly visible from the recto); on backing paper, in graphite: '44 [in a circle]'.

Height: 180 millimetres
Width: 163 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 22mm apart)

Generally good though a little dirty and faded; perhaps trimmed; white has partly oxidised; a slight loss, upper centre.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, attributed to Rembrandt, cat. no.74.
The drawing is a partial representation of Genesis, XXXVII, 5-10: Joseph tells his father and brothers of two dreams which he interprets as meaning that they will one day have to bow before him. Only two listeners are shown, but from a comparison with other versions of the subject by Rembrandt and his pupils it is clear that Joseph's parents are represented as they listen to his relation of his dreams.[1]
It has been pointed out that according to the biblical account, Joseph's mother, Rachel, had died before the episode of the dreams. This inconsistency is perhaps attributable to Rembrandt's having misread the background figure in an engraving of the subject made by Heinrich Aldegrever in 1532 (Bartsch 18). That figure in fact represents Joseph in bed, dreaming, whereas Rembrandt shows Rachel in bed in his painting in the Rijksmuseum of c.1633 (Bredius 504, Corpus A66) and in his etching of 1638 (Bartsch 37, Hind 160). Presumably Rachel is also represented here, leaning against the back of Jacob's chair. She is also shown in Lucas van Leyden's engraving of the subject (Bartsch 19), another possible source for Rembrandt. Alternatively Rembrandt may have intended to depict Jacob's second wife, Leah, but there is no known iconographical precedent for her presence.[2]
The attribution of the drawing to Rembrandt, is not wholly secure. There are reminiscences of Govert Flinck (see Flinck, cat. no.9, 1859,0806.73), but the analogies with Rembrandt's undisputed works in pen and ink of the 1640s are equally persuasive.[3] Mention might be made of the 'Portrait of Cornelis Claesz. Anslo' in the Louvre of 1640 (Benesch 759), the 'Two Men in Discussion' in the Courtauld Institute of 1641 (Benesch 500a), the 'Study for the sick Woman in the Hundred Guilder Print' in the Rijksmuseum of the mid-1640s (Benesch 183)[4] and two drawings in the present catalogue, the 'Esau selling his Birthright' and the 'Star of the Kings' (cat. nos.34 and 38; Gg,2.250 and 1910,0212.189). In the latter, the abbreviated animal and the shading towards the left are closely comparable to the present sheet. The stylistic parallels with the works mentioned above suggest a date c.1640-45. Some touches in paler brown ink, apparently applied with a reed pen, look to have been added later by Rembrandt, but like the adjustment of the shadows in the old man's left leg they appear to be later revisions rather than, for example, corrections to a pupil's work, and the cat (or dog) in the foreground is stylistically consistent with these alterations.
The drawing has long been associated with two others of the same subject, now in Vienna and in Washington (Woodner collection, see n.1), but as is revealed by comparison with those listed above they are less certainly by Rembrandt.[5] Rembrandt's etching of the subject of 1638 (Bartsch 37, Hind 160), like his oil sketch of c.1633 (Corpus A66; Bredius 504), is different in iconography and style (as are the two drawings related to the etching).[6] The sketchy character of the present sheet, with its numerous corrections (e.g. to the outline of the chair and the lowering of the crown of Jacob's hat), suggests that Rembrandt may have been working towards a more finished product, but none is known to survive from the same period.
A copy of the drawing is in Berlin.[7]

[1] Valentiner, 1925, and Benesch, 1955 (see Lit. below), compared the two drawings in the Albertina, Vienna and the Woodner Coll., National Gallery of Art, Washington (Benesch 526-7), discussed further below.
[2] Corpus, II, 1986, p.296. following C. and A. Tümpel in Exh. Berlin, 1970, under no.14 (the idea having been advanced in a paper by Lorenz Seelig). In 1652, Jan Victors painted the same subject, the central group being similarly posed as here, but it is one of Joseph's brothers who leans against the back of the chair, not his mother or step-mother (see Sumowski, 'Gemälde', IV, 1989, no.1753, repr. in colour).
[3] Past attempts to date it earlier, with the 1638 etching (Bartsch 37, Hind 160 - see Lit. below), are unpersuasive and have often depended on comparisons with works in other media and/or of uncertain attribution. See further Giltaij, 1995 (see Lit. below).
[4] Dated c.1647 by Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, no.21, but perhaps slightly earlier.
[5] The Woodner drawing (Benesch 527) is comparable to the 'Beheading of the Baptist' (Benesch 480) discussed in the context of Bol under cat. no.32; 1860,0616.130.
[6] Benesch 168 in a private collection, New York, and the verso of Benesch 161 for which see Giltaij in Rotterdam, 1988, no.13. The oil and the etching show Rachel - if it is indeed she - in bed in the background, and Jacob is in profile.
[7] See Berlin, 1930, no.3113. Executed in pen and brown ink with white heightening, 159 x 134. The copy is fairly exact, but has weak additions to the wash and the left-hand figure (there shown with a skirt).

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Blanc, II, 1861, p.454; Vosmaer, 1868/77, p.434/501 (c.1633; perhaps a study for the 'Portrait of a Shipbuilder' in Buckingham Palace, Corpus A77, Bredius 408); Dutuit, IV, 1885, pp.85-6 (as Vosmaer); Michel, 1893, p.581, repr. opp. p.530; Seidlitz, 1894, p.122 ('attrib. to' Rembrandt; of 'Abraham and Sarah'); Lippmann, I, no.109; Kleinmann, III, no.37; Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.XII; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.923 (A1645; compares paintings of Rabbis, Bredius nos.220, 229, 236, 240, 435 and Bode 295; notes pentimento in the hat); Saxl, 1908, p.233 (c.1641; probably same model as in etching Bartsch 259, Hind 169, and painted 'Scholar' of 1641 ex-Lanckoronski Coll., Vienna, Bredius-Gerson 219 [rejected]); Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; London, 1915, no.58 (c.1635-40; perhaps same model as Buckingham Palace portrait [repr. White, 1982, no.163], also used by Bol in his etchings Bartsch 7 and 10; compares for pose 'Old Man' in Leningrad, Bode 295 [not in Bredius]); Stockholm, 1920, p.69, repr. fig.82 (compares Stockholm 'Old Man led by Boy', Benesch 189); Valentiner, I, 1925, no.89 (c.1638, identifies subject as Jacob and Rachel listening as Joseph interprets his dreams, perhaps for the 1638 etching, Bartsch 37, Hind 160; compares V.90 now in Bredius Museum of same subject [inv.T.85-1946, not in Benesch] and animal to the drawing now in the Woodner collection, Benesch 527); Kauffmann, 1926, p.24, n.3 (c.1634-5); Van Dyke, 1927, p.52 (Bol; follows London, 1915, comparison of Bol's etchings; compares Berlin 'Angel leaving Manoah', Benesch 180, and Rotterdam 'Abraham and the Angels', Sumowski 235x [the latter also called Bol by Giltaij in Rotterdam, 1988, no.42]); Berlin, 1930, p.246, under no.3113 (notes copy in Berlin); Benesch, 1935, p.35 (c.1642-3; subject as 'Jacob in an Armchair'); Guldener, 1947, pp.13 and 19 (uncertain if represents Jacob and Rachel; compares Benesch 527 [now in Washington]); Wallrath, 1949, p.102 (compares Amsterdam 'Jacob and his Sons', Benesch 541); Benesch, III, 1955/73, no.528, repr. fig.656/687 (c.1642-3; compares drawings of this subject in Vienna and now Woodner collection, Benesch 526-7); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961, pp.51-2 (third in series of studies, ordered as Benesch 527, then 526 and 528; Jacob as in 527 but Rachel reversed; all datable c.1638 and with the oil in Amsterdam relate to the etching); Sumowski, 1961, p.10 (influenced Victors' painting of 1652); White, 1962, repr. pl.4 (c.1642); Rotermund, 1963, p.21, repr. fig.52; Benesch, 1964, p.123, n.11, reprinted 1970, p.288, n.13 (follows Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961, in placing the drawing last in the series of studies of this subject); Slive, 1965, I, no.111, repr. (c.1638); Exh. Cambridge, 1966, under no.45 (attribution uncertain; lists with other versions by Rembrandt and school; Haverkamp-Begemann, 1967 (1964), p.109 (as in 1961); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.111 (c.1637-8; precedes the etching of 1638); Exh. Vienna, 1969-70, under no.31; Haak, 1976/74, no.37, repr. (c.1642-3); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.318; Amsterdam, 1981, pp.34 and 53; Corpus, II, 1986, p.295 (not related to painting of 'Joseph telling his Dreams' in Amsterdam, Corpus A66, Bredius 504, pace Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961); Giltaij, 1995, p.100 (Flinck?); Rosand, 2002, pp.230-32, repr. fig.218 (composition generates one figure after another; Rembrandt gives precedence to the figure before elaborating space).

Literature after Royalton-Kisch 2010: Peter Schatborn, 'The early, Rembrandtesque Drawings of Govert Flinck', in Master Drawings 48 (2010), p.29, fig.30 (as Govert Flinck); Holm Bevers, review of Martin Royalton-Kisch catalogue, in The Burlington Magazine (2013), p.103 (as Govert Flinck).

old testament (all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Rachel (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Jacob (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Walter Benjamin Tiffin (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (Woodburn's sale, 7.vi.1860/772 as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - A Jew rabbi seated in a chair, an old woman) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Benjamin West (L.419) (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)
Previous owner/ex-collection Thomas Dimsdale (according to Lawrence and Esdaile catalogues) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Benjamin West (L.419; the catalogues of his sales, Christie’s, 9-14 June and 1-6 July, 1820, describe most of the lots only cursorily); Thomas Dimsdale (according to Lawrence and Esdaile catalogues); Thomas Lawrence (L.2445; in MS inventory of his collection as Rembrandt no.86, case 1, drawer 2, 62: ‘An Old Man sitting in a chair, a Woman leaning on the back of it, vigorous pen, great expression’); William Esdaile (L.2617; see under cat. no.15; 1895,0915.1264); his sale, Christie’s, 17 June, 1840, lot 71, bt Woodburn, £20-0-0; Woodburn sale, fourth day, Christie’s, 7 June, 1860, lot 772, bt Tiffin, from whom purchased by the British Museum, 1861.

Exhibition History
London, Lawrence Gallery, 1935, no.62;
London, BM, 1899, no.A36 (entitled 'Old man seated in an armchair');
1938, no.58 (c.1635-40);
1956, p.11, no.23;
1992, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.38, repr. in colour (c.1640-45).
2014 Jun-Sep, Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 'Meeting Point'

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