Study of an Oriental standing; WL, to front, wearing a long cloak and a large turban with a plume, his r hand on his belt. c.1639 Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, heightened with white, on light brown prepared paper Verso: Head of a man wearing a turban, cancelled sketch Pen and brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • RectoRecto
  • VersoVerso
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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,1214.100

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 207 ((recto only))
Royalton-Kisch 2010 27
Hind 1915-31 64 ((recto only))

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)
1639 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

An Oriental standing, full-length; to front, wearing a long cloak and a large turban with a plume, his right hand on his belt. c.1639
Pen and brown iron-gall ink heightened with white on paper prepared with brown wash; the verso in pen and brown ink only; ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink.
Verso: Sketch of the head of a man wearing a turban (crossed out)
No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, in graphite (nineteenth to twentieth century), top left: 'Rembrandt (?)’ lower left: ‘100’ and ‘2933 [in a circle]’.

Height: 222 millimetres
Width: 173 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 24/25mm apart)

Generally good; a horizontal scar across the figure’s knees was caused by the penetration of adhesive from old backing tape (the tape removed and damage treated, 1987).

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.27.

The drawing has been generally accepted as Rembrandt's work and dated c.1633, along with other studies of orientals executed in the same medium and style. The date has been proposed on the basis of the figure's resemblance to others painted by Rembrandt c.1632-3, such as King Cyrus in the small picture in a private collection of 'Daniel and King Cyrus' of 1633 (Bredius 491, Corpus A67).[1] Yet the breadth and vigour of the execution and the use of iron-gall ink both point to the end of the 1630s. Comparison can be made with several drawings of around 1639, including the recto and verso of the study of the 'Artist drawing from the Model' in the Museum's collection (see cat. no.24; Gg,2.248). The unquestioned study in Melbourne (Benesch 157) for Rembrandt's painting of 'Susannah and the Elders' in Berlin (Bredius 516, completed only in 1647) was also executed at about this time and is close to the present sheet from both a technical and stylistic point of view. The verso, first published in 1963, is inseparable from a sketch of another turbaned head on the back of an iron-gall ink study in Berlin, which should also be assigned to this period (Benesch 203 verso).[2] The underlying work in the head on the recto was executed in similarly fine lines to the verso before it was reworked in a broader manner.
The figure on the recto is reminiscent of one in a composition by Rubens of the 'Adoration of the Magi', which Rembrandt could have known through an engraving by Lucas Vorsterman and another print, based on Vorsterman's, that was published by Claes Jansz. Visscher in 1621.[3] The latter formed the basis of Rembrandt's iron-gall ink study of the 'Madonna and Child with a kneeling King' in the Rijksmuseum (Benesch 115), which resembles the present sheet in style and has also been dated to the second half of the 1630s.[4]
In a later 'Sheet of Figure Studies' in the Warsaw University Library (Benesch 667, dated by him c.1641-2), Rembrandt created a figure whose pose and garb recall the present model.[5] The type also appears in the right background of his etching of the 'Beheading of St John the Baptist' of 1640 (Bartsch 92, Hind 171).

[1] The connection first made by J. G. van Gelder, 1960, p.77 since when the idea that it was a preliminary study has been rejected – see Corpus, II, 1986, p.301. The group of studies of orientals was constructed by Benesch (1935, 1947 and 1954). Two of them (Benesch 209-10 in Berlin and Budapest) have been described as 'questionable' (Sumowski, III, 1980, under no.763x) although in the compiler's view they are probably genuine. Benesch, 1935, pp.15-6, further bases his date of c.1633 on the inscription, which he describes as 'false', on the Bremen 'Study of a Dromedary' (Benesch 453). He nevertheless thought that the inscription preserved a sound tradition. Stylistically, however, the drawing has only superficial connections with the present sheet.
[2] The paper of the Berlin sheet is very similar and also has horizontal chain lines 25 mm apart.
[3] Schneevoogt, 1873, p.22, nos.82 and 80 respectively. The composition was a source of inspiration to Rembrandt on other occasions: see Corpus, I, 1982, under nos.A9 and A40, Amsterdam, 1985, under no.9, and Exh. Amsterdam, 1985-6, pp.36-7. Rubens' painting, which Rembrandt would not have known, is now in Lyon (Oldenbourg, 1921, no.164).
[4] Amsterdam, 1985, no.9, repr.
[5] Warsaw, 2004, p.85, no.5, which also compares the British Museum drawing to the later representation of an 'Oriental' now in Groningen (Benesch 1130).

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Lippmann, IV, no.84; Kleinmann, III, no.36; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.912; Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; London, 1915, no.64 (c.1640-50?); Neumann, 1918[I], no.10, repr.; Stockholm, 1920, p.50 (compares school drawing in Stockholm, HdG.1580 [Sumowski 226x as Bol]); Van Dyke, 1927, p.96, repr. pl.XXIV, fig.95 (by S. Koninck; compares 'Adoration of Magi', Berlin, Benesch 160); Köhne, 1932, p.48, n.98 (compares Lievens etching of 'Standing Oriental', Hollstein 80); Benesch, 1935, p.16 (c.1633); Benesch, 1935[I], p.263 (early 1630s); Amsterdam, 1942, p.25, under no.53 (as London, 1915); Benesch, 1947, p.21, no.27, repr. (c.1633); Benesch, II, 1954/73, no.207, repr. fig.226/242 (c.1633); Sumowski, 1956-7, p.260, repr. fig.31 (Bol?); Drost, 1957, p.163 (Elsheimer influence; the most important of Rembrandt's group of oriental studies); van Gelder, 1960, p.77, repr. fig.5 (relates to painting of 'Daniel before King Cyrus' of 1633 in a private coll., Corpus A67, Bredius 491); White, 1963, p.38, repr. pl.32a (publishes verso); Benesch, 1964, p.122 (reprinted 1970, p.256); Slive, 1965, II, no. 533, repr. (c.1633); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.64; Sumowski, I, 1979, under nos.165x and 183x; Corpus, II, 1986, p.301 (see n.1 above); Exh. Amsterdam, 1985-6, no.23, repr. (reproduction only exhibited; c.1635-40; relationship to Rubens); Exh. Washington, 1990, p.30, n.2 ('picturesque' subject-matter); Exh. Stockholm, 1992, repr. p.366, fig.165a (inspired Stockholm study by Bol, Sumowski 226x); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1992, p.463 (sheet has darkened – not prepared with wash); Giltaij, 1995, p.98 (early 1630s); Warsaw, 2004, p.85, under no.5 (see n.5 above); Berlin, 2006, p.88, under no.20 and p.201 (follows Exh. London, 1992 in comparing verso to the verso of Benesch 203 in Berlin); Schwartz, 2006, pp.74 and 296, repr. figs 120 and 526.

asian (all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Colnaghi (Purchased in exchange for duplicate prints.) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Mendes de Leon (possibly) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Possibly Mendes de Leon, sale, Amsterdam, 20 November, 1843, Kunstboek G, no.7 (‘Een staande Man in Oostersche kleeding; breed met de pen’); purchased from Colnaghi’s 1895.

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A47 (mid-1640s);
1938, no.64 (c.1640-50?);
1956, p.11, no.21;
1992, 'Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle', no.30, repr. in colour. (c.1639);
1995 Jan-Mar, Southampton Gallery, 'Drawing the Line', no. 173;
2006, BM, Rembrandt: a 400th anniversary display (no cat.)
2016-2017 16 Sep-23 Jan, Paris, Musee Jacquemart-Andre, Rembrandt Intime

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