The Holy Family; the Virgin seated at l, turned to r, a book in her lap, Joseph resting his head in his hand behind, the Christ Child in a cradle at r. c.1652-6 Reed pen and brown ink, with some corrections in white (oxidised)


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1261

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 49 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 63
Benesch 1973 903

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)
1652-1656 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The Holy Family; the Virgin seated at left, turned to right, a book in her lap, Joseph resting his head in his hand behind, the Christ Child in a cradle at right. c.1652-1656

Reed pen and brown ink, with some corrections in white (oxidised to black); ruled framing lines in the same brown ink.

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, in pen and brown ink, lower left: '658'; in graphite: 'X Par [?]' and 'S. upright.'.

Height: 117 millimetres
Width: 151 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 24/26mm apart)

Generally good; the black streaks to the right and under the Virgin’s chin appear to be corrections in white that have oxidised (see also under Object Description); upper right corner creased and damp-stained; a brown stain beneath the cradle.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.49.
As has generally been recognised, the style of the drawing suggests that it was made in the early-to-mid-1650s.[1] Of Rembrandt's securely dated drawings, the most comparable is the 'Homer dictating' of 1652 in the Six Album (Benesch 913), which although less broadly handled displays similarly delicate and suggestive outlines. The composition of a version of the subject of about the same period in Berlin (Benesch 873) is comparable,[2] and the British Museum's drawing has been rightly compared with the 'Angel appearing to Hagar' now in Hamburg, which is generally accepted as by Rembrandt (Benesch 904).[3]

[1] See Lit. below; Valentiner was the first to date the drawing after 1650.
[2] The Berlin drawing has been attributed to a pupil in Berlin, 2006, p.211 but in the writer's view is stylistically inseparable from cat. no.48 (1910,0212.180) and therefore by Rembrandt. For the subject, compare also cat. no.39 (1900,0824.144, Benesch 516).
[3] By Benesch and again in Exh. Bremen, 2000-2001.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Robinson, 1869/76, no.765/789 (ex. Robinson collection); Lippmann, IV, no.74; Kleinmann, III, no.62; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.878 (c.1645); London, 1915, no.63 (c.1640-50; otherwise as Exh. London, 1899); Valentiner, I, 1925, no.331, repr. (c.1654; follows London, 1915, but dates later, along with the Berlin and Budapest works compared); Van Dyke, 1927, p.119 (by van der Pluym, as also Berlin 'Joseph's Dream', Benesch 879); Hell, 1930, p.38 (quotes London, 1915 and Valentiner, 1925); Benesch, 1935, p.51 (c.1652); Benesch, 1935[I], p.265 (c.1652); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no.903, repr. fig.1110/1186 (c.1652; groups with other drawings around Berlin 'Christ healing a Leper', Benesch 900, and Hamburg 'Hagar and Ishmael with the Angel', Benesch 904); Rosenberg, 1959, p.114 (mid-1650s, not early 1650s); Slive, 1965, II, no.523 repr. (c.1655); Exh. Bremen, 2000-2001, p.128, n.1 (as Benesch, 1957/73).

holy family (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Virgin Mary (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of St Joseph (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Jesus Christ (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (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)

Acquisition notes
J.C. Robinson; John Malcolm of Poltalloch; purchased with his collection, 1895.

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A46 (probably c.1645; compared with Berlin 'Joseph’s Dream', Benesch 879, related to 1645 Budapest painting, Hofstede de Groot, 1915, no.86, Bode 336 [not in Bredius]);
1938, no.63 (c.1640-50?);
1956, p.21, no.1 bis.;
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.57, repr. (c.1652-6).

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