Young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels), her head resting on her r arm. c.1654 Brush drawing in brown wash, with some white bodycolour


© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1895,0915.1279

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 1103
Royalton-Kisch 2010 51 (Rembrandt)
JCR 807
Hind 1915-31 97

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)
1654 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

A young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels); her head resting on her right arm. c.1654
Brush and brown wash, with some white bodycolour mixed in with parts of the wash touched with the pen in the hair; ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink (The sheet may have been prepared with an aqueous solution or drawn on when damp, as is suggested by the minor water stains at the edges)
Verso: see Inscriptions.
Watermark: countermark: 'PB' (perhaps a countermark to Arms of Amsterdam - cf. Churchill 2 [where dated 1651, although Arms of Amsterdam watermarks are unlikely before 1653]).

Inscription Content: Inscribed lower right, in graphite (nineteenth century?): '12'; verso, in graphite, right: '807 [the number in Robinson, 1876]' and lower left: '[…]44'.

Height: 246 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 24/25mm apart)
Width: 203 millimetres

Generally good; some damp and other stains, especially below; slightly ragged at extreme edges; a drying crease in the paper down left side.

Curator's comments
Literature: H. Bevers, in H. Bevers et.al. 'Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils: Telling the Difference', exh.cat. The J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2009, cat.no.17.1 (as Rembrandt).

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.51.
This well-known drawing is unusual for Rembrandt in having been executed almost entirely with the brush. As a result, and in spite of its celebrity, it poses considerable problems with regard to its iconography, date and even the authentication of its attribution.
A few other drawings, generally thought like the present one to represent the artist's common-law wife, Hendrickje Stoffels, were made with extensive use of brown wash and it is to these that the British Museum's study may be most readily compared. Two of them, in Stockholm, representing a 'Woman by a Window' (Benesch 1101-2), are slightly more detailed and less suggestive in their draughtsmanship, yet are close in scale and mood. A larger drawing of a 'Woman standing by a Window' in the Louvre (Rothschild collection, Benesch 1099) is analogous in its handling of the wash although the figure is there largely defined with the pen. None of these drawings can be attributed or dated with any persuasive supporting evidence; like the present sheet, they stand as Rembrandt's work entirely on the basis of their apparent quality. The only independent support for the attribution is provided by a landscape drawing, also in the Louvre (Benesch 1351), which like the British Museum's study is executed entirely with the brush and in ink of the same hue; its attribution to Rembrandt is to some degree confirmed by the presence of his handwriting on the verso. Yet although they seem stylistically compatible the evidence the comparison offers for the attribution of the present work is limited, being unrelated in its subject-matter.
The date of the drawings of Hendrickje is usually fixed c.1655 or slightly later, largely on the basis of their analogies with paintings of the same model. Her identification in the present drawing, though not beyond dispute (the details are insufficiently clear), is plausible: the round face, the hair swept back from a regular hair-line, and the unforced, natural grace of her posture are characteristics shared with the paintings of her, like that in Berlin of the late 1650s (Bredius 116). Closer still is the image of Hendrickje in the National Gallery's painting of a 'Woman Bathing' (Bredius 437). Dated 1654,[1] Hendrickje there wears a similar, loose-fitting, white gown and the arrangement of her hair is the same. The compatibility of her looks and dress are matched by a resemblance in the handling of the brush in these two works, both in the outlining of the shadowed profiles of the figure and in the treatment of the drapery. A date of approximately the same period - a little earlier than usually thought in the past - is perhaps the most soundly-based suggestion for the drawing, although comparisons between works of different media provide far from ideal criteria for the establishing of its date and attribution.[2] Yet no close analogies exist with the artist's few dated or datable drawings of the 1650s so that it is necessary to resort to those with the National Gallery's painting. The attribution is sustained above all by the authority that seems inherent in the drawing's characterisation, execution and mood.
Hendrickje Stoffels was born in c.1626, the daughter of a soldier from Breedevoort, near Arnhem. By October 1649 she had entered Rembrandt's life and was probably already living with him. They never married, probably because under the terms of the will of his first wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, who died in 1642, to have done so would have deprived Rembrandt and his heirs of the benefits of her estate. In 1654 the Council of the Reformed Church in Amsterdam reprimanded Hendrickje for her association out of wedlock with the artist, whose daughter, Cornelia, she bore later in the same year. Then aged about 28, this is the period to which the National Gallery's painting and the present drawing belong. In 1660, she and Titus van Rijn, the painter's son by Saskia, created a business partnership that may have shielded Rembrandt from his creditors. Her will of 1661 assigns her goods to Rembrandt's children with the artist as guardian and in the same year she was accepted as Rembrandt's wife in another document, although they had not formally united. She died in 1663 and was buried in the Westerkerk, where Rembrandt was laid to rest six years later.[3]
The depiction of a sleeping figure belongs to an iconographic tradition in Netherlandish art and it is possible that the drawing, like similar works by Willem Buytewech (1591/2-1624) and by Rembrandt's pupil, Nicolaes Maes (1634-93),[4] could have been intended as an exemplar of sloth or idleness. Yet such associations may only be speculatively attached to the drawing.
[1] The date on the painting has often been read as 1655, but according to Exh. London, 1988-9, p.96 (ad later sources), the last digit is 'undoubtedly' 4.
[2] The comparisons are yet closer with the X-radiograph of the painting, repr. loc. cit., p.99. Drawings in a similar brush technique by Rembrandt's pupil and friend, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, are also usually dated to the mid-1650s (see Sumowski, III, 1980, p.1688).
[3] This account of Hendrickje is based on a reading of the documents in Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979 (with further literature).
[4] For a recent discussion of analogous drawings see G. Luijten, 1997, pp.370-71. For the Buytewech drawing, a 'Woman asleep' in the Institut Néerlandais, Paris, see Exh. New York-Paris, 1977-78, no.22, repr. pl.21 and Exh. Amsterdam-Washington, 1981-82, no.30, repr. p.41, fig.4; for Maes, see the discussion in Exh. Philadelphia-Berlin-London, 1984, p.LIII and p.241. Benesch, V, nos.1100 and 1104 (in Dresden and in the Rembrandthuis) catalogues two further studies of sleeping figures in comparable postures. Neither drawing may be convincingly attributed to Rembrandt himself and the Rembrandthuis drawing has been given to Drost in Amsterdam, 1991, no.6.

LITERATURE (as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Waagen, IV, 1857, p.215 (James collection); Brunet, 1866, p.260 (as Waagen, 1857); Robinson, 1876, no.807 (from James collection); Lippmann, IV, no.76; Kleinmann, III, no.50; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.914 (c.1655); Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; Hind, 1912, I, p.53, repr. pl.XI; London, 1915, no.97, repr. pl. X (c.1660-69); Neumann, 1918[I], p.22 and no.15, repr; Stockholm, 1920, p.70, repr. fig.84 (compares 'Youth standing with a Stick, seen from behind', Stockholm [Sumowski 781x as Eeckhout]); Van Dyke, 1927, p.65 (by Eeckhout); Hell, 1930, p.106 (expressive brushwork compared to Rembrandt's use of pen in late period); Hind, 1932, pp.41 and 111, repr. pl.XXIV (like Hokusai); Valentiner, II, 1934, no.713, repr. (c.1657-60; Hendrickje; compares 'Woman at a Window', Stockholm, Benesch 1102); Benesch, 1935, p.61 (c.1655-6; groups with other wash drawings, the 'Boy at a Desk', Dresden, Benesch 1095, and the two Stockholm studies of a 'Woman at a Window', Benesch 1101-2); Benesch, 1935[I], p.267 (c.1655-6); Popham, 1939, p.68, repr. pl.IV; Poortenaar, 1943, p.26 and no.93, repr. (c.1655; Hendrickje?); Schinnerer, 1944, no.21, repr. (c.1657-60); Benesch, 1947, pp.13, 14 and 27, and no.249, repr. (c.1655-6; Hendrickje); Hanfstaengl, 1947, repr. p.141 (c.1657; Hendrickje); Rosenberg, 1948/64, I, p.148/243, repr. II, fig.203 (likeness unimportant; Hendrickje?); Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, p.167, under no.231 (compares Stockholm drawing, Benesch 1102); Boon, 1955, p.144, repr. p.142, fig.7; Knuttel, 1956, pl.55; Rosenberg, 1956, p.128, repr. fig.20 (Hendrickje); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no.1103, repr. fig.1323/1394 (c.1655-6; Hendrickje; compares two drawings of 'Woman at a Window', both Stockholm, Benesch 1101-2); Benesch, 1960, p.29 and no.86, repr. (c.1655-6; 'radiant with colour'); Boeck, 1962, repr. fig.40; White, 1962, pl.20 (c.1655); Flekel, 1963, p.41, repr.; Stech, 1963/68, pl.52 (Hendrickje); Slive, 1965, II, no.525, repr. (c.1655; Hendrickje?; celebrity of the drawing); Gerson, 1968, repr. p.481, fig.c (Hendrickje?); Haak, 1969/68, p.264, repr. fig.441 (c.1655-6; 'Woman asleep'); Bonnier, 1970/69, repr. in colour, p.69, fig.46 (c.1655-6); Exh. Amsterdam, 1973, p.20, under no.33 (relates to technique used by Eeckhout); Haak, 1976/74, no.85, repr. (c.1655-6); Bernhard, 1976, II, repr. p.534; Sumowski, III, 1980, p.1688, under no.782x (quoting earlier writers and relating to Eeckhout); Amsterdam, 1981, p.28, under no.1, n.5 (drawing's celebrity); Exh. Amsterdam-Washington, 1981-2, p.24, repr. fig.14 (technique also used by Eeckhout); Tümpel, 1986, repr. p.265 in colour (c.1655-6); Exh. Berlin-Amsterdam-London, 1991-2[I], pp.10 (repr.), 17 and 120 (mid-1650s); Schatborn, 1993, p.23; Exh. Paris-Haarlem, 1997, p.xxvi, repr. fig.6 and van Berge-Gerbaud, p.132, under no.57 (first of a group of sketches of Hendrickje; original study of a figure in light; broader brush used than by Eeckhout in his wash/brush drawings); Exh.Melbourne-Canberra, 1997-8, p.327, repr. p.328, fig.11 (c.1655); Starcky, 1999, pp. 94-5, repr.; Exh. Bremen, 2000-2001, p.12, repr. fig.8 and p.54; Exh. London-Paris-Cambridge, 2002-3, p.126, n.7; Roscam Abbing, 2006, p.29, repr.; Exh. London, 2006[I], p.148, under no.13, repr. fig.149; Schwartz, 2006, p.295, repr. fig.524; Sluijter, 2006, p.330, repr. p.328, fig.315 (not useful in identifying other images of Hendrickje - an ideal type).

Associated names
Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Col John Wingfield Malcolm (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Malcolm of Poltalloch (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 108, bt Col, £9-5-0, for Malcolm; John Malcolm of Poltalloch; purchased with his collection, 1895.

Exhibition History
1878-9 London, Grosvenor Gallery, no.201;
1895, London, no.375;
1899, no.A83 (c.1664-5);
1938, no.97 (c.1660-69);
1956, p.10, no.12; 1965-7, p.3;
1965, BM, Masterpieces of the Print Room, (no cat.);
1969 Amsterdam, , no.122 (c.1655)
1972-3, London, no.211 (c.1660-69)
1984, BM, Master Drawings & Watercolours, no.95;
1992, BM, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, no.58;
1996/7, Sep-Jan, BM, Malcolm Collection, no.85;
2000, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Glory of the Golden Age, no.51;
2001/2, Edinburgh, Rembrandt's Women, no.118;
2006, BM, Rembrandt: a 400th anniversary display (no cat.)
2009/10 Dec-Feb, Los Angeles, J Paul Getty Museum, Rembrandt and his pupils
2014-5 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, 'Rembrandt: The Final Years'
2015 Feb-May, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum,'Rembrandt: The Final Years'

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