print study / drawing

Sketch for the posthumous etching of Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius (1563/64-1638), study for a print; HL, wearing a skull cap and ruff, his l hand extended, by his r a book, oval. c.1646 Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, heightened with white


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1874,0808.2272

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 37 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 65
Benesch 1973 763

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
print study (scope note | all objects)
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
1646 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Sketch for the posthumous etching of Jan Cornelisz Sylvius; study for a print, half-length, wearing a skull cap and ruff, his left hand extended, by his right a book, oval. c.1646

Pen and brown ink, with white heightening;* a few traces of black chalk, lower right, do not belong to the original drawing.
* The wash recorded by previous writers is more probably the result of using a pen well-loaded with ink.

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Verso: in graphite, centre: '77 [in a circle]'.

Height: 285 millimetres
Width: 195 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 36mm apart)

Good; some repairs to top right; a diagonal crease runs from the top right corner to the centre left edge.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.37.
A study, in reverse, for Rembrandt's posthumous portrait etching of Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius (1563/64-1638), which is dated 1646 (Bartsch 280, Hind 225; for an impression of the first state in the British Museum, see 1973,U.984). Another sketch for the etching, apparently made before the British Museum's drawing, is in Stockholm (Benesch 762a). It shows the sitter turned to the right, but the fictive oval frame and the lines of poetry that appear in the print below the sitter are already anticipated. In the present sheet Rembrandt introduced the motif of the hand thrust forward, casting a shadow on the frame, an illusionistic device that is given yet greater prominence in the etching. The gesture was probably inspired by the text of the poem, in Latin, that was written by Petrus Sylvius to appear on the etching and which refers to the sitter's prowess as an orator.[1] The space below the image of the sitter in the present sheet, as well as in the Stockholm study, reveals that the poem's appearance on the print was foreseen from the start.[2] Rembrandt here also introduced the curtain, and the vertical line above the sitter's right shoulder marks the point occupied by the wall of the arch in the final print.
Some precursors of Rembrandt's design have been enumerated, including works by Gerrit Pietersz. Sweelinck and Frans Hals, and latterly Hendrick Pot's 'Portrait of Bernardus Paludanus' now in the Frans Halsmuseum in Haarlem, which shows the sitter in an oval and in similar dress, with a cartouche below containing a sonnet by Samuel Ampzing.[3] The drawings also suggest that Rembrandt remembered his etching of Claes Cornelis Anslo (see catalogue no.31; 1848,0911.138).[4]
Rembrandt had etched a portrait of Sylvius in 1633 (Bartsch 266, Hind 111) in which only the pose of the head and the interior arch bear a substantial resemblance to the later print. The Stockholm sketch gives the design at an intermediate stage and seems to depend on another drawing, now in Washington, that may represent the same sitter (Benesch 762).[5] The British Museum's drawing, because of its clear relationship with the etching and its autograph status, assumes a special significance in the reconstruction of the chronology of Rembrandt's pen drawings of the 1640s.
Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius was a cousin of Rembrandt's first wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. In 1635 and 1638 (the year of his death) he officiated at the baptisms of their children, Rumbartus and Cornelia, both of whom died in infancy. He was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church and served in several Frisian communities before being called to Amsterdam in 1610. It has recently been suggested that the print was commissioned by the sitter's sons, Cornelis and possibly Petrus, following the death of the sitter's widow, Aeltje van Uylenburgh (1570-1644),[6] whose portrait Rembrandt had painted in 1632.[7]

[1] As suggested in Exh. Amsterdam, 1969, no.75. The poem, by Casper Barlaeus, is followed by a distych by Petrus Sylvius, who may have commissioned the print (kind communication of B.P.J. Broos, 2008). It is transcribed and translated by Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, pp.251-2. The trompe l'oeil gesture has been likened to works by Gerrit Pietersz. and Frans Hals (see Münz, 1952, White, 1969 and Exh. Boston-St Louis, 1981-2, in Lit. below; the works concerned are repr. Slive, 1970-74, I, fig.9 and 11, pls.14, 81 and 82), but see further below.
[2] As noted by Haak, 1969/68, p.193. The attribution of the Stockholm drawing, first proposed by Welcker, 1954 (see Lit. below) is in my view acceptable, although it betrays little of the power and vigour of the British Museum's sketch. Yet in style it seems compatible with such drawings as the Louvre's study for the 'Hundred Guilder Print', (Benesch 185), and the sketch of a head on the verso of the 'Star of the Kings', here cat. no.38 (1910,0212.189, Benesch 736).
[3] See Exh. Amsterdam-Berlin, 2000-2001, p.227, fig.d.
[4] See Dickey, 1998 (see Lit. below).
[5] The Washington drawing is related to a painting in Cologne, Bredius 237, but the attribution of the picture has been doubted, as also the identification of the sitter (see Lit. below: Seidlitz, 1895, p.153; also Bredius-Gerson, 1969, no.237). Vosmaer, 1868, p.434, records the study for the Portrait of Sylvius (he does not say which) as sold from the Julienne collection, with six other pen drawings, stating that it went for 2 livres to the abbé Gruel, but see under Provenance above; but as he dates it c.1633 it may have been an unknown drawing related to the earlier etching of Sylvius, Bartsch 266, Hind 111.
[6] Broos, 2006, p.58 (although Cornelis was the sitter's son by his first marriage to Lucia Sixti, the daughter of Sixtus Ripperti).
[7] Corpus, II, no.A63, now in a private collection. She was a cousin of Saskia's. The painting was identified as her portrait by J. van der Veen for the sale catalogue by Christie's, London, 13 December, 2000, pp.132-6.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt, for the etching Bartsch 280, Hind 225, of 1646):
Vosmaer, 1877, p.501; Dutuit, IV, 1885, p.85; Michel, 1893, pp.354 and 582, repr. p.356 (drawing not from life); Seidlitz, 1894, p.121 (c.1645); Seidlitz, 1895/1922, p.153/214, under no.280 (related painting in Cologne of 1645, Bredius 237, not of Sylvius); Lippmann, I, no.121; Kleinmann, III, no.33; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.898; Singer, 1906, p.275, under no.170 (the etching not by Rembrandt); Baldwin Brown, 1907, p.127; Exh. Paris, 1908, p.74, under no.224; Wurzbach, 1910, p.417; Hind, 1912/24, I, p.6/28 and under no.225, repr. pl.XXVII/III; London, 1915, no.65; Graul, 1920, p.35, under no.192; Coppier, 1922, repr. p.54 (wrongly as in Berlin); Kramar, 1926, p.39; Weisbach, 1926, p.389; Van Dyke, 1927, pp.30 and 39 (the etching by assistants); Hind, 1932, pp.77 and 86 (not from life); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.730, repr. (relates to Washington study, Benesch 762, which he dates earlier, c.1634); Benesch, 1935, p.38 (powerful use of reed pen; compares 'Man looking out of a Window' in Petit Palais, Benesch 764); Amsterdam, 1942, p.12, under no.28, and p.26, under no.53 (compares Amsterdam drawing, 'Study of a Woman, half-length', Benesch 436; also the Six coll. 'Study of Jan Six', Benesch 767, and school drawing in Rijksmuseum, 'God appearing to Abraham', V.8 [Sumowski 219x as Bol]); Poortenaar, 1943[I], repr. p.89; Benesch, 1947, p.16 and no.146, repr. (perhaps a modello); Wallrath, 1949, p.102 (compares 'Bust of Woman', Amsterdam, Benesch 436 [rejected in Amsterdam, 1985, no.102]); Münz, 1952, I, p.38, and 11, p.66, under no.68 (pose possibly suggested by Hals); Boeck, 1953, p.196 (same direction as the print); Welcker, 1954, pp.229-33, repr. fig.2 (publishes Stockholm drawing, Benesch 762a, which he believes of c.1639; gesture influenced by Barlaeus' poem); Benesch, IV, 1955, no.763, repr. fig.907/962 (compares other drawings of the subject in Washington and Stockholm, Benesch 762 and 762a); Biörklund and Barnard, 1955, p.92, under no.BB46-E; Exh. Amsterdam-Rotterdam (etchings), 1956, p.30, under no.57; Exh. Stockholm, 1956, p.65, under no.96; Exh. Vienna, Albertina, 1956, p.63, under no.217; Exh. Warsaw, 1956, under no.36; Roger Marx, 1960, repr. p.205, fig.66a; White, 1962, repr. pl.14; Slive, 1965, I, no.123, repr.; Haak, 1969/68, p.193, repr. fig.313 (details of the sitter; design takes account of Barlaeus' lines even in preparatory stages); White, 1969, I, p.127, repr. II, pl.170 (follows Münz in seeing possible influence of Hals; sitter appears younger than in the first sketch; the force of the drawing is diluted in the etching); Exh. Vienna, 1970-71, p.103, under no.174; Regteren Altena, 1973, p.178, repr. fig.143; Haak, 1976/74, no.45, repr.; Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.343; Sciolla, 1976, p.11 and pl.XXXI; Exh. Boston-St Louis, 1981-2, p.150, under no.97 (notes differences between drawing and print in the books and degree to which sitter leans out - an illusionistic emergence comparable to works by Gerrit Pietersz. of 1606 and Hals in three paintings - see n.1 above); Amsterdam, 1985, p.60, n.14 (compares Rijksmuseum 'Three Orientals', Benesch 682); Exh. Paris, 1986, p.139, under no.68; Schatborn, 1986, pp.16-17, repr. fig.1; Exh. Amsterdam, 1986-7, no.2, repr. (reproduction exhibited; see n.4 above); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-92[I], pp.228-30, repr. fig.22c; Exh. Stockholm, 1992-93, repr. p.349, fig.148b; Royalton-Kisch, 1993[I], pp.178-80, repr. fig.2 (notes the line above sitter's right shoulder that marks the placement of the arch in the etching); Starcky, 1993, p.208 (on Julienne provenance); Schatborn, 1994, p.22; Exh. Paris-Haarlem, 1997, p.XXV.; Dickey, 1998, pp.313 and 333, repr. fig.46 (composition derives from Anslo print, as seen especially in Stockholm sketch [Benesch 762a] but also with Anslo's rhetorical gesture); Starcky, 1999, pp.80-81, repr.; Dickey, 2004, p.63, repr. p.252, fig.67 (relates to composition of 'The Goldweigher', Bartsch 28, Hind 167); Berlin, 2006, p.105, under no.26, (compares Berlin 'Bust of Galba', Benesch 770); Broos, 2006, p.58, repr. p.63, fig.13 (c.1645; see further main text above).

Associated names
Portrait of Jan Cornelisz. Sylvius (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Charles Francis Arnold Howard, 5th Earl of Wicklow (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Jean de Jullienne (possibly Paris sale, 30 March, etc., 1767, lot 562) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Hugh Howard (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Possibly Julienne sale, Paris, 30 March, etc., 1767, lot 562 (Rembrandt): 'L’Etude du Portrait de Jo. Co. Sylvius, et six autres dessins a la plume', bt De Baudeville, 9.1 livres (but see n.4 under Comment); purchased from Hugh Howard, Earl of Wicklow, 1874.

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A48;
London, 1938, no.65;
London, 1956, p.7, no.7a;
Amsterdam, 1969, no.75 (trompe l’oeil hand refers to sitter’s prowess as an orator as expressed in Barlaeus’ poem on the print);
London, 1974, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.105;
London, 1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.46, repr. in colour;
Amsterdam-London, 2000-2001, pp.70-71 and 223, repr. p.70, fig.110 and p.226, fig.c;
London, 2005, 7 July-25 Sept, BM, 'Masterpieces of Portrait Drawing' (no cat.)

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