Christ blessing little children; Christ seated at centre, watched by further figures, above to r a woman holding a child Brush drawing in brown ink Verso: Three sketches including a woman holding a child while looking down at another and a HL figure Brush drawing in brown ink


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • VersoVerso

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1972,U.674

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 144 (Anon.)
Sumowski 1979 continuing 1759 (verso)
Sumowski 1979 continuing 1762 (recto, as Maes)
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Maes.3

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 Nicolaes Maes (biographical details | all objects)
Formerly attributed to Rembrandt (School of) (biographical details | all objects)
1652-1653 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Christ blessing little children; Christ seated at centre, watched by further figures, above to right a woman holding a child. c.1652-53.

Reed pen and brown ink on pale brown paper (recto and verso).

Verso: Studies for Christ blessing little Children

No watermark.

Inscription Content: None.

Height: 204 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 23mm apart)
Width: 178 millimetres

Some foxing, especially at the top; otherwise good.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Nicolaes Maes, cat. no.3:
Both sides of the sheet contain studies for Maes' painting of the same subject, now in the National Gallery.[1] Other studies for the composition survive, and the present sheet was probably the last of the surviving sketches to have been made, the recto being the closest in design to the painting.
Possibly the earliest study is a slight drawing, showing only Christ, a mother and child, and a man in a turban, in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille (Sumowski 1761). This shows Christ on the left of the composition. It appears on the verso of a drawing of a 'Landscape' (Sumowski 1763), which also includes a fragmentary sketch for the composition. Closer to the Museum's drawing is a composition study in the Rijksmuseum (Sumowski 1760), which shows Christ standing in an architectural setting, blessing a child in its mother's arms, with a frieze of further figures behind on a partly enclosed platform. A barrow containing a sick child appears at the lower left (doubtless inspired by the barrow in Rembrandt's 'Hundred Guilder Print') and another woman kneels in profil perdu before Christ with a child in her arms.
In the present sheet, the artist abandoned many elements of the architectural enclosure and rearranged the figures to a considerable degree. The kneeling woman is seen from the front, the barrow has been omitted, and Christ, who is now seated, blesses a child standing next to him. Christ is shown twice, once with his head erect, and a second time bending his head slightly forward, and this position was adopted in the final painting. In the latter, further substantial changes were made to the group of figures behind Christ, and the architectural setting gave way to a landscape background, with the trunk of a tree replacing the column that closes the composition in the Amsterdam drawing.
The slight study on the verso may have been made between the Amsterdam and British Museum drawings. Two figures that appear towards the left of the recto of the former are here refined. The lower sketch, of the mother with two children, is a motif developed in the canvas but not on the recto of the present sheet. Yet these figures, too, were recast in the painting.[2] The Rembrandtesque quality of the canvas has generally led to its being dated early, c.1652-3. Its composition, and several elements seen in the preparatory studies, reflect those of a group of drawings attributed to Samuel van Hoogstraten, which may date from around 1648.[3]

[1] The attribution of the painting was once much disputed (see Lit. below, and the summaries in Sumowski, 1983 and London, 1991). The British Museum drawing is stylistically inseparable from Maes' work, although the painting is less easy to admit into his oeuvre on purely stylistic grounds.
[2] No X-radiograph of the painting has been made, so that it is impossible to know whether the underpaint includes passages that relate more closely to the drawing.
[3] Sumowski 1171x-4x, repr., respectively formerly in Bremen, in the Rijksmuseum (inv.no.1987:10, also repr. 'Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum', xxxv, 1987, no.4, p.336, fig.13), in Munich and in Weimar.

Hind, 1904-5, p.326 (among miscellaneous unmounted drawings; Rembrandt school; related to National Gallery painting; Maes in contention for both); Holmes, 1904-5, p.330 (drawing and painting by C. Fabritius?); London, 1915, no.144, recto repr. pl.XX (anon., but inclined to regard as Maes; disputes Holmes, 1904-5); Valentiner, 1923[I], p.22, pl.III, L (Maes, as also the painting, following London, 1915); Bredius, 1923, p.104 (drawing clearly for the painting, but a more minor figure than Maes, perhaps van Beyeren); Bredius, 1923-4, p.207 (painting and drawing perhaps not Maes); Valentiner, 1924, p.17, repr. fig.20 (by Maes, as Valentiner, 1923); Stechow, 1925, pp.148-9 (doubtful as Maes); Hofstede de Groot, 1929, pp.144-5 (painting and drawing not by Maes); Hind, 1932, p.31, repr. pl.XIII (Maes, following Valentiner); Münz, 1937, p.151, repr. p.152, fig.16 (by Maes, but not for London painting, which by B. Fabritius; notes drawings and a print of same subject by other Rembrandt followers); Valentiner, 1939, p.325, n.8 (as Valentiner, 1923; Munich drawing [Sumowski 1173x] by Hoogstraten; Weimar drawing [Sumowski 1174x] also Maes); Pont, 1958, pp.155-6 (refutes Münz's attribution of the painting; both probably by Maes c.1652-3; Weimar drawing [Sumowski 1174x] less close to painting); London, 1960, pp.230-31 (drawing and painting by Maes, early 1650s); Exh. Brussels-Hamburg, 1961, pp.103-4, under no.138 (drawing in Rijksmuseum drawn before BM's); Plietzsch, 1961, p.103 (as London, 1960): Exh. Cambridge, 1966, under nos.32 and 46; Exh. Munich, 1966-7, p.49, under no.101 (Maes); Exh. Chicago-Minneapolis-Detroit, 1969-70, under no.198 (Maes; inspired by 'Hundred Guilder Print'; Amsterdam version earlier); van Fossen, 1970, pp.143-4, recto repr. fig.14 (drawing and painting by de Gelder); Sumowski, 1970, p.43, repr. figs 5-6 (verso moves towards Amsterdam version, the recto the last of the three sketches; compares Hoogstraten's drawn versions, which may have influenced Maes, including Munich sheet [Sumowski 1173x]); Walsh, 1972, p.108, repr. fig.4 (early 1640s; iconography); Munich, 1973, p.105, under no.747 (compares eyes to Munich sheet of same subject, to Amsterdam drawing of 'Incredulity of St Thomas' [Amsterdam, 1985, no.86 as anon.] and to 'Dismissal of Hagar', Berlin [Sumowski 1870x]; also compares Louvre drawing of 'Sacrifice of Isaac' [Sumowski 1765a]); Sumowski, 'Gemälde', III, 1983, p.2005, under no.1312 (Maes; as Sumowski, 1970); Sumowski, 1979, etc., VIII, 1984, no.1759 [the verso] and no.1762 [the recto], repr. (by Maes, for London painting, c.1652-3; as Sumowski 1970); Robinson, 1987, p.254, repr. fig.21 (Maes, c.1653-55, a preliminary study); Bruyn, 1988, p.330 (as Sumowski; emphasises influence of Hoogstraten); London, 1991, pp.242-3 (as London, 1960); Exh. London, 1992, p.205, under no.99; Robinson, 1996, p.102 and no.A20 (Maes; for the painting).

ministry of christ (all objects)

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

Acquisition notes
Small Crown. Not known how acquired.

Exhibition History
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle (not in catalogue, as Maes).

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