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Two women teaching a child to walk; one bending over and pointing. c.1635-7 Red chalk, on grey-buff paper


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1910,0212.187

Bibliographic reference
Royalton-Kisch 2010 13 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 421
Hind 1915-31 5

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)
1635-1637 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Two women teaching a child to walk; one bending over and pointing. c.1635-1637
Red chalk on rough grey paper.
Verso: blank; see Inscriptions.
No watermark.

Inscription Content: Inscribed verso, in graphite: ‘b’ (perhaps for British Museum mounter who mounted the drawing on the same board just below cat. no.14 [1910,0212.186], which is inscribed ‘a’. This was possibly done at the time of the 1912 exhibition]).

Height: 103 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 21mm apart)
Width: 128 millimetres

Good; small stains centre left edge and bottom centre; small loss made up lower right edge; presumably cut from a larger sheet (see further under Curatorial Comment).

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.13.
According to Michel, 1893 (see Lit. below), this and cat. no.14 (1910,0212.186) were on a single sheet measuring 265 x 262 mm. If both were now rejoined, the largest measurement would be 206 mm and it is impossible to reconstruct their original positions. If Michel's record is accurate, they must have been divided while in George Salting's collection but before the Royal Academy exhibition of 1899.
The sketches, presumably made from life, are not easily assigned a date. Of all Rembrandt's datable studies in red chalk, the closest stylistic comparisons are provided by the New York drawing after Leonardo's 'Last Supper' of c.1635 (Benesch 443), the 'Study for St John' of the same period in the Princes Gate collection (Benesch 142A)[1] and by the sketches – presumably not done from life – at the bottom of the sheet of studies for the 'Entombment' in Amsterdam (Benesch 152).[2] None of these is similar enough to the present sheet to allow a precise dating. That proposed here, c.1635-7, is therefore somewhat conjectural.[3] Other chalk drawings of women with children to which the present sheets have been compared (see Lit. below) differ in being on ordinary pale cream laid paper, and they do not provide a secure starting-point for a date. Nor are they especially similar in style.
The motif is a common one in the drawings of Rembrandt and his circle (see, for example, cat. no.53; 1912,0416.2). In Rembrandt's own etchings, a standing child held by its mother appears in 'The Hog' of 1643 (Bartsch 157, Hind 204) and one learning to walk is seen in the background of the 'Young Man seated and standing' (Bartsch 194, Hind 222) of c.1646. In these, as in the British Museum's drawings, the child wears a protective hat of a common type to prevent injury from falls. Yet the drawings are not directly connected with any other work.[4] They may have belonged to the artist Jan van de Cappelle, whose inventory of 1680 includes a portfolio of 135 drawings by Rembrandt that depicted the life of women and children.[5]

[1] The sketch of a head on the verso of Benesch 142A – not reproduced by Benesch – also offers analogies with the head of the woman in cat. no.14 (1910,0212.186). In Corpus, III, 1989, p.83, a loose connection between the present drawing (and no.14) and the Berlin painting of 'St John the Baptist preaching' of c.1634-5 (Bredius 555, Corpus A106) is suggested.
[2] Placed at the end of 1635 or early 1636 by Schatborn in Amsterdam, 1985, no.7.
[3] As can be seen below (Lit.), the drawings have usually been dated in the 1630s but in 1935 Benesch placed them as late as c.1647-50.
[4] Related pedagogic imagery employed in emblematic literature and elsewhere seems too far removed from the drawings to warrant discussion in the present context. The reader is referred to Emmens, 1964, pp.154ff. and to Bedaux, 1982 (1983).
[5] Hofstede de Groot, 1906[I], p.412.

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt):
Michel, 1893, p.585 (ex Robinson coll.; describes with cat. no.14 [1910,0212.186] as a single sheet measuring 265 x 262 mm); Lippmann, III, no.74b; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.1127; Wurzbach, 1910, p.419; London, 1915, no.5 (c.1635-40; compares Benesch 308 in Vienna of similar subject); Exh. Madrid, 1934, p.77, under no.1 (compared with [school] drawing of similar subject in Madrid, Benesch 1162); Benesch, 1935, p.41 (c.1647-50; compared to Benesch 751 in Vienna); Hamann, 1948, pp.54-5, repr. fig.36 (c.1635; the woman on right Rembrandt's mother); Rosenberg, 1948/64, I, p.147/236, repr. fig.198; Benesch, II, 1954/73, no.421, repr. fig.479/507 (c.1637; compares 'Team of Horses', Benesch 461, Amsterdam, and chalk studies of elephants in Vienna of 1637, Benesch 457-8; also, under no.308, to other studies of similar motifs, Benesch 302, 308-9, 411-12 and 422, the latter here cat. no.14 [1910,0212.186]); Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, p.68, under no.61 (c.1635-7; compares chalk studies of same subject, Benesch 278, 309 and 422, the latter here 14 [1910,0212.186]); Rosenberg, 1956, pp. 127-8, repr. fig.23 (c.1640); White, 1962, repr. pl.18 (c.1637); Slive, 1965, II, no.409, repr. (c.1640); Rosenberg, Slive and ter Kuile, 1966, p.65, repr. Pl.46A (as if of 1640s); Sumowski, 1971, p.127 (compares study of similar motif formerly in Blumenreich coll., Berlin [not in Benesch], repr. fig.6, which he dates later, c.1645); Amsterdam, 1981, p.41, under no.6 (as Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, and Benesch, 1954/73); Schatborn, 1981[I], no.16, repr. (c.1637); Vogel-Köhn, 1981, p.55 and no.55, repr. (c.1639-40); Amsterdam, 1985, under no.65, (compares – as Benesch 1954 – subject to school drawing in Amsterdam, Benesch 412, which he attributes to C. Fabritius); Corpus, III, 1989, p.83 (see n.1 above); Schneider, 1990, p.229 (c.1634-40; example of portrayal of emotions); Slive, 1995, p.77, repr. fig.91 and p.113 (c.1635-40; mentions record of 'vrouwenleven' drawings); Rosand, 2002, pp.230-33 and pp.241-2, repr. fig.219 (on the 'gesture' of drawing and its temporal implications; on the viewer's active decoding of the lines; more exuberant in use of space than Rembrandt's later drawings); Schwartz, 2006, p.76, repr. figs 126-7; I. Seligman, 'Lines of Thought', London, 2016, no. 28, p. 67.

child (scope note | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by George Salting (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Sir John Charles Robinson (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Jan van de Capelle (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
J. C. Robinson; his sale, Paris, 7-8 May, 1868, lot 62 (with cat. no.14; 1910,0212.186); bequeathed by George Salting, 1910.

Exhibition History
London, Royal Academy, 1899, no.154 (2);
British Museum, 1910, p.5, slope III; 1912, no.166b (compared with cat. no.53; 1912,0416.2);
1938, no.5;
1956, p.15, no.10;
1984, Rembrandt and the Passion, no.5 (1630s);
1987 Feb 5 - May 25, BM, 'An A-Z of P&D';
1992, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.16, repr. in colour;
2001-2, Edinburgh-London, 'Rembrandt's Women', p.138, no.56;
2006, BM, 'Rembrandt: a 400th anniversary display' (no cat.).
2017 May - Sep, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 28
2017-2018 Oct - Jan, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 28

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