The Prodigal Son among the Swine; kneeling, leaning on a stick, in profile to l by a trough from which four swine are eating, a suckling pig beneath the sow at r. c.1650 Pen and brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1910,0212.179

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 40
Royalton-Kisch 2010 45 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 601

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)
1650 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The Prodigal Son among the Swine; kneeling, leaning on a stick, in profile to left by a trough from which four swine are eating, a suckling pig beneath the sow at right. c.1650

Pen and brown ink.

Verso: see Inscriptions; inspected but has been laid down again.

Watermark: countermark: 'PR' (probably countermark to a foolscap, cf. Laurentius, pp.233-36).

Inscription Content: Verso, in graphite, centre: '334.'.

Height: 159 millimetres
Width: 235 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 25mm apart)

Generally good, though perhaps slightly trimmed; some discolouration, especially down the right-hand side.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.45:
The subject is from the New Testament (Luke, XV, 17-19) and was often represented as an exemplar of the virtue of repentance: Christ's parable of the Prodigal Son relates how, having squandered his inheritance, the son is reduced to the lot of a swineherd. Penitent (as shown here), he decides to return to his father and beg his forgiveness: 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants' (VV.18-19). The subject was treated by several artists before Rembrandt, who may have been inspired by Albrecht Dürer's engraving of c.1496 (Bartsch 28), which shows the same moment in the story.[1]
The drawing has been dated variously, from the mid-1630s to c.1650 (see Lit. below). The earlier date was probably suggested by Rembrandt's etching of the 'Return of the Prodigal Son' of 1636 (Bartsch 91, Hind 147), in which the son's pose is superficially related.[2] In the light of the drawing's stylistic proximity to a number of generally accepted sheets of c.1645-55, however, the later date of c.1650 is the most plausible.[3] Among the most comparable are two in Berlin, the 'Study for the Hundred Guilder Print' (Benesch 188), probably of the mid-to-later 1640s, and the 'Raising of Jairus' Daughter' (Benesch 1064), which is probably of the 1650s although it has been dated still later.[4] The latter can be stylistically related to the drawing in the Six Album of 'Homer reciting Verses' (Benesch 913), which is dated 1652, but the analogies with drawings of the 1640s suggest that the present sheet was executed a little earlier, in about 1650. It also has features in common with drawings by Rembrandt's pupil, Willem Drost, who was in the master's studio at this time, similarities that lend support to the proposed dating without seriously challenging the attribution.
For the larger animals, seen in profile to left and right, Rembrandt seems to have made use of his earlier drawings, cat. nos.20-21 (Pp,2.116 and Pp,2.117, Benesch 778 and 779).[5]

[1] As noted by Rotermund, 1963, p.185. See also Haeger, 1986, for other treatments of the subject.
[2] The drawing in Haarlem of the 'Return of the Prodigal Son' was also dated to c.1636 (e.g. by Valentiner, I, 1925, no.388) but is now generally placed c.1642 (e.g. by Benesch, no.519).
[3] Although there are analogies with Rembrandt's works of the first half of the 1640s, for example, with cat. no.34 (Gg,2.250, Benesch 606), as pointed out by Benesch.
[4] By Benesch, for example, who placed it in the early 1660s.
[5] The comparison first made by Hind in London, 1915, no.40.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Waagen, IV, 1857, p.215 (in James Collection); Brunet, 1866, p. 260 (as Waagen, 1857); Michel, 1893, p.585 (Salting, ex-James coll.); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.1119; 'Rembrandt Bijbel', II, 1910, repr. opp. p.65; London, 1915, no.40, repr. pl.VI (c.1635-40; compares the studies of pigs, here cat. nos.20-1 [Pp,2.116 and Pp,2.117, Benesch 778 and 779]); Valentiner, I, 1925, no.387, repr. (c.1636); Kauffmann, 1926, p.175, n.3 (c.1635-6); Paris, 1933, p.32, under no.1193 (follows London, 1915); Benesch, 1935, p.42 (c.1648-50); Benesch, III, 1955/73, no.601 repr. fig.732/774 (c.1647-8; notes London, 1915 comparisons are with much earlier drawings; compares several sheets including Weimar 'Good Samaritan', Benesch 615, and 'Esau selling his Birthright', here cat. no.34; Gg,2.250); Sumowski, 1958, repr. fig.42 (c.1643); Roger Marx, 1960, repr. p.334, fig.154c; London, 1961, p.22, under no.187 (c.1640; grouped with tragic or morbid themes in Rembrandt while discussing Benesch 485a in Seilern coll.); Rotermund, 1963, p.185, repr. fig.200 (perhaps a reminiscence of Dürer; subject from Luke, XV, 17-19); Sumowski, 1963, no.41, repr. (c.1643); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.375; Clark, 1978, pp.136-7 (one of several treatments of the subject by Rembrandt); Hoekstra, IV (deel 2), 1981, repr. p.46 (c.1645-8); Giltaij, 1995, p.100 (not Rembrandt).

parable of prodigal son (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Prodigal Son (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by George Salting (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Andrew James (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Andrew James; his sale, Christie’s, 28 April, 1873, lot 71, bt Parsons, £1-15-0;* bequeathed by George Salting, 1910. *As ‘James’ in both Michel, 1893, and London, 1915.

Exhibition History
London, 1910, p.5;
London, 1912, no.162;
London, 1938, no.40 (c.1635-40);
London, 1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.52, repr. (c.1650).

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