Christ washing the feet of his disciples; kneeling before a group at r, a few figures seated at l foreground, including a man bending forward to watch. c.1628-9 Pen and brown ink, touched with brown wash


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1961,0708.2

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 182
Royalton-Kisch 2010 4 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 Add.40a

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)
1628-1629 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Christ washing the feet of his disciples; kneeling before a group at right, a few figures seated at left foreground, including a man bending forward to watch. c.1628-1629

Pen and brown ink, touched with brown wash; unruled framing lines to left and below only.

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, in graphite: ‘4\205 [?]’ and ‘[…]E [erased]’.

Height: 140 millimetres
Width: 186 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 27mm apart)

Faded; dirt discolours the corners; a small loss made up at upper left edge and the sheet trimmed slightly irregularly; a spot (perhaps ink) disfigures the head of the disciple on the extreme left.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.4:
The drawing has been dated variously, either to c.1635 or c.1639. The comparisons made hitherto have been on stylistic grounds alone and with drawings that are datable only approximately. These bear only a superficial resemblance to the present sheet.[1]
Of the datable drawings by Rembrandt, the closest analogies are with the Rijksmuseum's study (Benesch 9 recto) for the 'Judas returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver' (Corpus A15, Bredius 539A). Although lacking the wash used extensively in that drawing, the variety of movement in the lines and the formulation of the figures exhibit enough similarities to allow the attribution to stand and to place the study in Rembrandt's Leiden period. The composition also has elements in common with the 'Judas' painting, including the semi-circular group of men, the table to the left and a figure kneeling in profile to the right of centre. Stylistic comparisons with pupils' drawings are unproductive, yet there are further analogies with other sheets generally accepted as Rembrandt's own work from the Leiden period. These include the 'Sketch of a Man leaning over a Table' and the 'Sketch of a Rabbi' in the Museum's collection (cat. nos.2-3; T,14.8 and Oo,9.95). The physiognomy and expression of the latter mirror that of the (somewhat disconnected) head leaning over the table near the centre of the present drawing. The roughly contemporary 'Seated Man in a tall Hat' in Rotterdam (Benesch 29)[2] is also executed with similarly angular and harsh lines. A date c.1628-9, around the time of the 'Judas' painting, is here proposed on the basis of these comparisons.
The subject of 'Christ washing the Feet of his Disciples' was treated by Rembrandt on other occasions. No paintings are now known, but inventories of 1660 and 1680 list such pictures as by him, in the latter case as a grisaille.[3] A drawing, probably made c.1650 and now in the Rijksmuseum (Benesch 931), repeats some elements from the present design (the table to the left and the pose of the seated figure seen in profile, there used for St Peter).[4]

[1] Valentiner compared the 'Susannah and the Elders' in Berlin (Benesch 159), while Benesch compared the 'Joseph lifted from the Pit' from the P. de Boer collection and the 'Pastoral' at Wroclaw (Benesch 181 and 424).
[2] See further Rotterdam, 1988, no.1, where dated to c.1627-8.
[3] Inventories of Abraham Jacobsz. Graeven of Amsterdam (Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, p.455: 'Een schilderijtje, daer Christus de Voeten wast, van Rembrandt'; 'a small painting of Christ washing the Feet, by Rembrandt') and Harmen Becker (Bredius 1910, p.198, see further Postma, 1988, p.16, under fol.285r: 'Een graeutie van Rembrant daer Cristus de voete wast'; 'A grisaille by Rembrandt of Christ washing the feet'). It is of course possible that both inventories describe the same painting. Valentiner's attempt (1936, pp.73-81) to identify the lost work with an oil sketch in Chicago (repr. Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, no.81) has not met with general acceptance.
[4] See Amsterdam, 1985, no.25 (where dated to the 1640s; earlier writers had placed it in the 1650s; W. W. Robinson, 1988, pp.584-5, suggests c.1650). An unrelated school drawing of the subject is in the Louvre (repr. Paris, 1933, no.1271, pl.LXXXIII, with mention of another in the Marsden J. Perry collection, Providence).

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt):
Waagen, IV, 1857, p.215 (mentions Rembrandt drawing of this subject in Andrew James collection, not necessarily this sheet and could for example be Benesch 931); Brunet, 1866, p.260 (as Waagen, 1857); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.442 (c.1635); Benesch, 1935, p.29 (c.1639); Benesch, I, 1954/73, no.182, repr. fig.203/218 (c.1639); Sumowski, 1958, p.198 (c.1632); 'British Museum Report of the Trustees', 1966, p.73, repr. pl.LI; Exh. London, 1984, p.3 (too faded to exhibit); Amsterdam, 1985, pp.57-8, under no.25, repr. fig.25a (early 1630s; see n.4 above; influenced van Hoogstraten drawing in Berlin, KdZ 5670, Sumowski 1213x, and possible connection to lost paintings by Rembrandt); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], p.118, repr. fig.34a (just prior to end of Leiden period; compares 'Judas' painting); Haverkamp-Begemann, 1992, p.464 (agrees with Sumowski's date proposed in 1958); Starcky, 1993, p.218, n.13 (groups with 'Calling of St Matthew', Benesch 144, Stockholm, and other drawings; not Rembrandt); Schatborn, 1994, p.20 (agrees with earlier date proposed in Exh. London, 1992); Giltaij, 1995, p.94 (1630s).

new testament (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Jesus Christ (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Henry Van den Bergh (With a life interest to his children. The drawing was received following the death of Robert van den) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Victor Koch (London) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Andrew James (possibly) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Possibly Andrew James sale, London, Christie’s, 28 April, 1873, lot 72, bt Palgrave, 9s-0d (see Waagen, 1857, in Lit. under Comment); Victor Koch, London; Henry van den Bergh, by whom bequeathed with a life interest to his son Robert (d.1959); acquired 1961.

Exhibition History
1964, BM, Recent Acquisitions, no.21
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.4, repr.

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