Portrait study of an unknown old woman; HL, almost to front, wearing a close linen cap, ruff and fur-trimmed coat, her hands in a muff Black chalk, touched with red


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • Full: FrontFull: Front

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1891,0511.30

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 1
Sumowski 1979 continuing 533x
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Dou.1

Dutch Roy XVIIc

Back to search results

Back to catalogue

Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Gerard Dou (biographical details | all objects)
1630-1635 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Portrait study of an old woman; half-length, almost to front, wearing a close linen cap, ruff and fur-trimmed coat, her hands in a muff. c.1630-35

Black and red chalk.

Verso: blank.

Watermark: lower section of a Strasbourg lily, comparable to Laurentius 435 (datable 1611).

Inscription Content: Inscribed top left, in black chalk: ‘GDou [‘GD’ in monogram; possibly a signature]’; verso, in graphite, left of centre: ‘2502’.

Height: 169 millimetres
Width: 130 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 30mm apart)

A few losses at extreme edges; slightly foxed; otherwise good.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Gerrit Dou, cat. no.1:
Apart from the inscription, the authenticity of which cannot be proven, the attribution of the drawing to Dou rests only on the general stylistic affinities that it exhibits with his other works. The handling of the chalk relates to sections of Dou's drawn 'Portrait of Marijtje Jansdr. van Rozenburg (the Artist's Mother)' in the Louvre, particularly in the definition of the skirt and of the fur.[1] In other respects the style differs, the looser, trailing lines of the present sheet being reminiscent of drawings by Jan Lievens rather than of Dou's master, Rembrandt (cf. Lievens cat. nos.2-3, 1836,0811.341 and 347). The model, or a very similar one, is depicted in an etching of around 1630-31 that has been variously attributed to Rembrandt, Lievens and Dou.[2] Another drawing of the 'Head of an old Woman', in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt, resembles the present work in style and is probably by the same hand.[3] Yet its connection with Dou is also tentative, and it bears an early attribution to Lievens.
These stylistic considerations lend some support to the traditional attribution to Dou, which is here retained also because the monogram appears to be in the same medium as the black chalk sections of the drawing, and because the composition resembles Dou's paintings, such as the 'Prophetess Hanna' in the Rijksmuseum and the 'Old Woman in a Fur Cloak and hat' in Berlin.[4] The drawing probably dates from around 1630-35.[5]

[1] Louvre, Département des arts graphiques, inv.22579, signed and dated 1638, repr. Sumowski 528.
[2] Bartsch 358; Hind 83. The connection suggested by Münz, 1952 (see Lit. below). For a summary see White and Boon, 1969, I, pp.167-8 and Sumowski, under no.533x.
[3] Inv. no.3295 as by Lievens (repr. Sumowski 532x).
[4] Rijksmuseum inv. no.A2657 and Berlin Gemäldegalerie inv. no.847; repr. Sumowski, 'Gemälde', I, nos.245 and 253. The composition of the Berlin painting resembles that of the etching mentioned above, and the model is thought to have been Rembrandt's mother.
[5] A few earlier writers followed Münz, 1952 (see Lit. below) in believing that the drawing is a facsimile by Ploos van Amstel. This error may have been transferred from London, 1915, p.75, no.3, repr. pl.XXXIX, which is indeed a facsimile by Ploos van Amstel of a drawing by Dou of a 'Woman seated at a Spinet', but which is there catalogued as an original drawing.

'British Museum. Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters', IV, 1894, no.5, repr. (early work by Dou; perhaps of Rembrandt's mother); Martin, 1901, p.245, no.373; Bode and Valentiner, 1907, p.32, pl.15; London, 1915, p.74, no.1, repr. pl.XXXIX (early Dou, influenced by Rembrandt); Henkel, 1931, pl.LXXV; van Regteren Altena, 1949, p.XX, no.27, repr.; Münz, 1952, II, p.179, under no.318, repr. pl.14b (as a print by Ploos van Amstel after a lost drawing); White and Boon, 1969, I, p.168, under no.B358 (quoting Münz, 1952); Sumowski, 1979 etc., III, 1980, no.533x, repr. (signature not authentic; early 1630s); Robinson, 1982, p.285 (persuasive as Dou); Broos, 1984, pp.175-6 (signature authentic; style similar to the 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother', Louvre inv.22579, Sumowski 528).

This drawing was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part IV, Published by the Trustees, in 1894 where it was number V and described there as 'Gerard Dou, Portrait of an Old Woman.'

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Colnaghi (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Jacob de Vos Jacobsz. (not identifiable in his sale catalogue, Amsterdam, Roos et al., 22-24 May 1883) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Chevalier Ignace Joseph de Claussin (Paris, 2.xii.1844/28) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Jacob de Vos (Amsterdam, De Vries et al., 30.x.1833/Kunstboek L, no.3) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Jacob de Vos; his sale, Amsterdam, de Vries, Brondgeest, Engelberts and Roos, 30 October, 1833, ‘kunstboek’ L, no.3 (‘Eene oude Vrouw in het bont gekleed, de handen in eene mof gestoken. Uitmuntend fraai en uitvoerig met rood en zw. krijt’); Chevalier de Claussin; his sale, Paris, Schroth and Dumesnil, 2 December, 1844, lot 28, bt de Vos, F.300 (but not in Jacob de Vos Jacobsz. 1883 sale); purchased from Colnaghi's, 1891.

Exhibition History
London, 1891, 'Supplement' 1892, no.106;
1895, no.421;
1956, p.32, no.3;
1974 July-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.109;
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, not in catalogue

Noticed a mistake? Have some extra information about this object? Please contact us

To bookmark this page select "Bookmark this page" or "Add to favourites" from the web browser menu.