COMPASS Title: Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-portrait with mouth open, a drawing


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Gg,2.253

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 1
Royalton-Kisch 2010 1 (Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 53

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 (?)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Self-portrait of Rembrandt, with mouth open, as a young man; turned to right, looking to front, his mouth half open, with curly hair. c.1628-1629 (?)
Pen and brown ink with grey wash; ruled framing lines in the same brown ink
Verso: Tracing of profile of the head on the recto in black chalk (not by Rembrandt)
Watermark: fragment of a Basilisk or an armorial mark - not the same mark as on Benesch 54 (the drawing discussed under Curator's comments below)
Condition: generally good; slightly stained at edges; brown ink somewhat faded and the sheet a little discoloured

Inscription Content: Inscribed on verso, upper centre, in graphite: '45' [in a circle]; top left, in pen and brown ink: '0+ 3' [?]; lower centre, in graphite: 'F' [?].

Height: 127 millimetres (127 x 95 (25h))
Width: 95 millimetres ((chain lines horizontal, 25mm apart))

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.1. :

The thin, curling lines in pen and brown ink are comparable to two other drawings in the British Museum (5213.8 and Oo,9.95), suggesting a date c.1628-9, when Rembrandt was 22-23 years old. Over the delicate work in ink the grey wash is applied more boldly, elaborating the delineation of the hair, shading the face and extending the figure below to include the bust.
The style and technique of the drawing resemble those of another 'Self-Portrait' in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Benesch 54; inv.1961:75), in which the torso is turned to the left. In composition these drawings are indirectly related to Rembrandt's self-portrait etchings of c.1628-30,[1] and to some painted self-portraits of the same period, in particular those in Amsterdam (Corpus A14, c.1628), Munich (Bredius 2, Corpus A19, c.1629) and Nuremberg (Corpus A21, copy 1, c.1629 [now regarded as the original version, rather than that in The Hague][2]). In the latter the figure's mouth is only slightly open, and he wears a metal gorget and appears less dishevelled. The only self-portraits in oils of the Leiden period in which the artist is portrayed, as here, with his mouth open, are those in Munich, already mentioned, and Indianapolis (Corpus A22, copy 1 [now regarded as the original version, rather than that in Japan][3] of c.1629), although this feature is met with in some of the etchings,[4] including the 'Self-Portrait as a Beggar seated on a Bank', which is dated 1630 (Bartsch 174, Hind 11; for an impression, see Cracherode 1973,U.742).
The number and informality of most of the early self-portraits also relate them to many of the other painted, drawn and etched busts or 'tronies' of the Leiden period which are not self-portraits. Some of these images, including the present drawing, may have been made as exercises in facial expression and as models for Rembrandt's pupils rather than as independent works for the art market.[5] The marked 'chiaroscuro' of the drawing has prompted the plausible suggestions that it was made by artificial light[6] and that Rembrandt was concerned with studying the way the light passes across and through the mouth, illuminating its interior and creating a highlight at the corner of the mouth on the shadowed side of the face. This latter effect is found in paintings of the same period by the Utrecht Caravaggists.[7] It is also noteworthy that Rembrandt here portrays himself in his everyday clothes rather than in a historicising costume, as is more usual in his self-portraits.[8]
Unlike Rembrandt's painted and etched self-portraits, his drawings are rare, and only six others are known and generally accepted as autograph, including the above-mentioned drawing in Amsterdam (Benesch 54).[9]

[1] Compare in particular Bartsch 1, 4, 10, 13 and 338 (Hind 33, 2*, 30, 31 and 4 respectively).
[2] See Exh. London-The Hague, 1999-2000, no.14a, Exh. Nuremberg, 2001 and Corpus, IV, 2005, p.597-8.
[3] See Exh. London-The Hague, 1999-2000, no.8 and Corpus, IV, 2005, pp.598-601.
[4] Bartsch 13, 316 and 320 (Hind 31, 34 and 32 respectively).
[5] See Schatborn's entry on the Rijksmuseum's drawing (here fig.1a) in Amsterdam, 1985, no.1, in which he quotes Rembrandt's pupil, Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1678, p.110, recommending artists to use their own faces in the mirror to study facial expression.
[6] Benesch, 1947 (see Lit. below).
[7] As suggested in Corpus, IV, 2005, p.148. It is there surmised that this was the main purpose and focus of the drawing, but the consideration given to other details such as the eye in shadow should not be overlooked. Portier-Theisz., 1999, p.86 already saw the drawing as focussing on "l'étude d'expression de la bouche ouverte (d'étonnement ou de surprise)".
[8] See Van de Wetering, 1997 (see Lit. below).
[9] See Exh. London-The Hague, 1999-2000, nos.45 (Benesch 437; Washington), 47 (Benesch 432, Berlin), 63 (Benesch 1171, Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis, now often doubted, although I am inclined to accept it as by Rembrandt), 77 (Benesch 1176, Rotterdam) and 78 (Benesch 1177, Vienna). One other that comes into contention is Benesch 432 (Marseille).

LITERATURE (always as Rembrandt's self-portrait):

Bürger, 1858, pp.397-8 (perhaps a self-portrait); Bode, 1876, p.126 (relates to painting in Kassel, Bredius 1); Wurzbach, 1876, p.223; Middleton, 1878 under no.7 (relates to 1629 etching, Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Bode, 1881, p.60, repr. p.61 (the earliest drawing known to Bode; for the 1630 etching, 'Bl.219' [according to Seidlitz this refers to Bartsch 13, Hind 31]); Bode, 1883, p.379 (c.1629; Rembrandt's earliest surviving drawing); Dutuit, IV, 1885, p.85 (quotes Bode, 1883); Michel, I, 1893, pp.32-3 and 582 (related to Bartsch 338, Hind 4, of 1629); Seidlitz, 1895/1922, under nos.9, 13 and [1st ed. only] 338 (rejects Middleton, 1878, association of the drawing with Bartsch 338; related to Bartsch 9 and 13, Hind 35 and 31); Lippmann, II, no.45; Kleinmann, III, no.43; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.895 (c.1629; related to Bartsch 338, Hind 4, and the painting in The Hague, Bredius 6, Corpus A21); Saxl, 1908, p.338 (c.1645); Wurzbach, 1910, p.417; Hind, 1912/24, I, pp.54-5 [in 1st ed. only] and under no.4, pl.XIV (c.1629; not repr. in 2nd ed.); London, 1915, no.1, pl.1 (c.1629-30); Neumann, 1918I, no.33; Freise, Lilienfeld and Wichmann, III, 1925, under no.88 (compares Berlin 'Self-Portrait', Benesch 432, KdZ.1553); Weisbach, 1926, p.115 (compares The Hague painting and etchings in general); Berlin, 1930, p.230, under no.1553 (quotes Freise, Lilienfeld and Wichmann,1925); Bauch, 1933, pp.152,156 and 199, repr. fig.168 (c.1629; related to painting in The Hague); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.657 (c.1629; related to etchings Bartsch 13 and 338, Hind 31 and 4, and paintings [now] in Indianapolis - Bredius 3, Corpus A22 copy I; Amsterdam - Bredius 5, Corpus C34; and The Hague); Benesch, 1935, p.9 (c.1629); Benesch, 1935I, p.262; Bredius 1937/35, under no.6 (related to Mauritshuis painting); Popham, 1939, p.67; Wichmann, 1939, p.19 and no.4, repr. (c.1628-9); Benesch, 1940, pp.6-9, repr. fig.6, reprinted 1970, pp.136-7, fig.103 (c.1627-8; earlier than Benesch 54); Pinder, 1943, pp.21-2, repr. p.14 (compares Bartsch 13, Hind 31); Schinnerer, 1944, no.1, repr. (c.1629); von Alten, 1947, no.1 repr. (c.1629); Benesch, 1947, p.10 and no.7 (as in 1940; drawn by artificial light); Rosenberg, 1948/64, I, p.5/8, II, pl.6; Münz, 1952, II, repr. pl.1, fig.1; Benesch, I, 1954/73, no.53, repr. fig.60/61 (c.1627-8; resembles etching, Bartsch 27, Hind 3, which he believes c.1628; earlier than Benesch 54 [here fig.1a]; also as Benesch, 1947); Exh. Amsterdam-Rotterdam, 1956, p.13, under no.6 (related to Mauritshuis painting and etching of 1629, Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Rosenberg, 1956, pp.124-5, repr. fig.8 (relates to Mauritshuis painting); Bauch, 1960, pp.163 and 262, n.137 (compares Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Roger Marx, 1960, p.10, repr. fig.1a; Scheidig, 1962, p.35, repr. fig.1 (c.1627-8); White 1962, pl.12 (c.1628); Slive, 1963, p.133, fig.12; Benesch, 1964, p.109, reprinted 1970, p.249, repr. fig.103 (c.1627-8); Slive, 1964I, p.486, fig.6 (compares Boston 'Self Portrait in the Studio', Bredius 419, Corpus A18); Slive, 1965, I, no.269, repr. (c.1629); van Regteren Altena and Frerichs, 1965, p.44 under no.55 (c.1629); Bauch, 1966, p.8, under no.112 (as Slive, 1964I); Clark, 1966, repr. p.6, fig.4 (earliest self-portrait); Exh. Cambridge, 1966, under no.1 (as Benesch); Erpel, 1967, p.15, repr. fig.4 and no.14 (c.1628-9); Gerson, 1968, p.30, repr. p.195, fig.a; Haak 1969/68, p.38, repr. fig.51 (c.1627-78); Exh. Amsterdam, 1969, p.24, repr., and p.112, under no.24 (as Benesch); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.96 (c.1627-8; compares 'Beggar-Woman with Gourd', Washington, Benesch 24); Bonnier, 1970/69, p.6, repr. in colour, fig.2; Exh. Vienna, 1970-71, p.29 (related to Bartsch 13, Hind 31); Haak, 1976/74, no.1, repr. (c.1627-8); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.14; Defoer, 1977, p.18, n.38; Clark, 1978, p.12, repr. fig.3 ('true' likeness); Amsterdam, 1981, under no.1; Corpus, I, 1982, pp.211 and 216; Schatborn, 1982, p.253; Wright, 1982, pp.17 and 45, no.2, repr. pl.7 (c.1629; compares self-portrait in Lakenhal 'History Painting' and the Mauritshuis 'Self-Portrait', Bredius 460 and 6, Corpus A6 and A21); Haak, 1984, p.265, repr. fig.562; Amsterdam, 1985, under no.1, repr. fig.1a (c.1628-9); Chapman, 1990, pp.24 and 30, repr. fig.25 (c.1629; independent, not preparatory; introspective emphasis); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2I, pp.32-3 (with Amsterdam sheet, Benesch 54, a preliminary study for the etching of 1629, Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Exh. Leiden, 1991-2, pp.67 and 76, n.42, repr. p.98, fig. 46 (one of three grey wash drawings of Leiden period, with Benesch 54 and Benesch 8; related to print, Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Van de Wetering, 1997, p.4, repr. p.v (Rembrandt not usually seen in his everyday clothes); Hess, 1999, p.272, repr. fig.3 (Nuremberg painting based on the drawing; mouth slightly open in both); Portier-Theisz., 1999, p.86 (see n.7 above; also compares the etching, Bartsch 338, Hind 4); Exh. Nuremberg, 2001, p.11, repr. fig.5 (as Hess, 1999; holds that Amsterdam drawing, Benesch 54, made immediately before that in British Museum); Exh. Kassel-Amsterdam, 2001-2, p.25, repr. fig.5; Corpus, IV, 2005, pp.48, 145, 148-50, repr. p.148, fig.93 (c.1628-9; length of hair varies in early self-portraits which cannot all be accurate; see further n.7 above); Berlin, 2006, p.78, under cat. no.17 (as Freise, Lilienfeld and Wichmann, 1925).

self-portrait (all objects)

Associated names
Portrait of Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Inscribed in lower right by W. Y. Ottley, in pen and brown ink: 'no.253 wyo' (Lugt 2662). This does not denote that he owned the drawing, it was written as part of the inventory of the collection during his time as Keeper, 1831-33.

Exhibition History
1899, BM, no.A1 (c.1628-30; compared to etchings Bartsch 338 and 13, Hind 4 and 31)
1938, BM, no.1
1956, BM, p.7, no.1 (c.1629; compared to Bartsch 338, Hind 4)
1974 BM, July-Dec, Portrait Drawings, no.143, repr.
1984 BM, Rembrandt and the Passion, no.1 (c.1629)
1992 BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.1, repr.
1999 June-Sep, London, National Gallery, Rembrandt by Himself, no. 13
1999/2000 Sep-Jan, The Hague, Mauritshuis, Rembrandt by Himself, no.13
2002 Feb-May, BM, Imaging 'Ulysses': Richard Hamilton's illustrations to James Joyce', ex.cat.

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