A woman ill in bed. c.1640-45 Pen and brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1891,0713.8

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 117 (anonymous Rembrandt School)
Benesch 1973 380
Hind 1915-31 54 (as 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
Formerly attributed to Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
Circle/School of Rembrandt (anonymous) (biographical details | all objects)
1640-1645 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A woman ill in bed. c.1640-45
Pen and brown ink, with framing lines in a darker ink
Verso: a few lines in red chalk; see also Inscriptions
Watermark: fragment, with letters 'WR'

Inscription Content: Inscribed lower right, in pen and brown ink (seventeenth or eighteenth century): 'Rembrant:'; verso, below, in pen and brown ink, in Esdaile’s hand: '1835 WE Rembrandt'.

Height: 125 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 26/27mm apart)
Width: 165 millimetres

Not fresh; stained yellowish and spotted surface from old foxing and/or adhesive; minor abrasions at edges and corners.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, anonymous Rembrandt School, cat. no.117.
Doubted as Rembrandt's work for the first time in 1985,[1] the drawing displays only superficial stylistic analogies with the several undoubted pen and ink studies of his wife, Saskia, in bed, made c.1635-40.[2] In comparison the lines in present sheet lack fluency and appear considerably more tentative while the volumes seem flatter. Nevertheless the quality of the sketch is high and its attribution represents something of a 'borderline case'. Its affinities with some of Rembrandt's etchings of the same subject, in particular with the 'Sheet of Studies', (Bartsch 369, Hind 196), have often been remarked.[3] Most of the etchings depict the motif in reverse and unlike the drawings they show the light falling from the right. Here it also comes from the right and it seems likely that the draughtsman – probably a pupil of the 1640s – based his work on the prints. The etched 'Sheet of Studies' shows Saskia in much the same pose but with her further hand holding her nearer arm.
Stylistically, the closest drawings in Rembrandt's oeuvre are from around 1640, in particular the 'Study of a man kneeling' in Bayonne (Benesch 477) and cat. no.32 (1860,0616.130). These are drawn in a more fluid style and the lines are simultaneously more reticent and yet more suggestive of the forms depicted.
A copy, which omits the extension of the pillow in the upper centre, is in the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, 1985, no.93, repr.).

[1] By P. Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985 (see Lit. below), who expresses surprise at the position of the curtain indicated at the foot of the bed, yet this is occurs on the upper study in the 'Sheet of Studies' etching (Bartsch 369, Hind 196).
[2] E.g. Benesch 255, Dresden, Benesch 281A, Oxford, Benesch 282, Groningen, Benesch 283, Paris (Dutuit), and cat. no.15 (1895,0915.1264). Benesch compared the present drawing to his nos.167 ('Tobit (?) sleeping beneath a Tree', Paris, Lugt collection) and 169 ('Saskia (?) in Bed', Washington), but the attribution of both these drawings is open to question and the stylistic analogies are not persuasive.
[3] Since Colvin in Exh. London, 1899 (see Exhibitions above); he also compared the etching of the 'Sick Woman with a large white headdress [Saskia]', Bartsch 359, Hind 196. Hind, 1912, and White, 1969, also compared the 'Death of the Virgin', Bartsch 99, Hind 161. The etching of 'Joseph telling his Dreams' of 1638, Bartsch 37, Hind 160, also includes the motif of a woman in bed in the background.

LITERATURE (as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Kleinmann, IV, no.18; Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.XV; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.935; Hind, 1912/24, I, under no.163 (compares, with other drawings, to etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163; see also n.3 above); London, 1915, no.54 (c.1635-40; follows Exh. London 1899; Rijksmuseum copy – see above – noted as similar but inferior); Van Dyke, 1927, p.77 (Flinck, as also the etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.692 (c.1639; study for etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163); Benesch, 1935, p.22 (c.1634-5; groups with other drawings of the same subject); Amsterdam, 1942, p.49, under no.99, and p.57, under no.117 (notes Amsterdam version as a copy; compares 'Raising of Jairus' Daughter', Amsterdam, Benesch A1 [Amsterdam, 1985, no.84, as school]); Münz, 1952, II, p.74, repr. pl.III, fig.6 (contemporary with the etching, Bartsch 369, Hind 163); Benesch, II, 1954/73, no.380, repr. fig.432/455 (c.1638-9); Biörklund and Barnard, 1955, p.71, under no.BB 38-2 (relates to etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1961, p.26 (notes Benesch's failure to mention Rijksmuseum version); White, 1969, I, pp.54 and 159, repr.II, fig.234 (as Hind, 1912/24; see n.3 above); White and Boon, 1969, I, p.162, under no.B369 (compared to the etching [Hind 163]); Exh. Vienna, Albertina, 1970-71, p.74, under no.118 (c.1638-9; related to etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.250; Amsterdam, 1981, p.48, under no.9; Amsterdam, 1985, p.198, under no.93, repr. fig.93a (not Rembrandt, but by a follower, based on authentic drawings and etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163; copy in Rijksmuseum); Exh. Paris, 1986, p.133, under no.64 (not related to etching); White, 1992, p.268 (probably Rembrandt).

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Colnaghi (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Samuel Woodburn (Christie's, London, 7.vi.1860/768 as 'Rembrandt, Van Rhyn - A female lying in bed - subject etched b) (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); W. Esdaile (L.2617; see cat. no.19); his sale Christie’s, 17 June, 1840, lot 8 bt Woodburn, 7s; Samuel Woodburn sale, Christie’s, 7 June, 1860, lot 768: 'A female lying in bed - subject etched by the artist - pen', bt Enson, £2-10s); purchased from Colnaghi’s, 1891.

Exhibition History
London, Lawrence Gallery, 1835 (see Provenance under Acquisition);
London, 1899, no.A27 (c.1638-9; perhaps Saskia; compared to etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163 and Bartsch 359, Hind 196);
1938, no.54 (follows London, 1915, see Lit. under Comment);
1956, p.19, no.9 (study for etching Bartsch 369, Hind 163); 1992, no.90, repr. (school of Rembrandt, c.1640-45).
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, No 90

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