drawing

Head of an old woman; her head covered in drapery, in profile to left, looking upwards and smiling.   Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper.    Verso: Laid down.    No watermark visible.

AN463218001001

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1897,0813.9.95

Bibliographic reference
Croft-Murray 1960 1
Binyon 1898-1907 7(95)
Royalton-Kisch 2010 Backer.3

Location:
Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

Materials
paper (all objects)
Techniques
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Attributed to Jacob Backer (biographical details | all objects)
Formerly attributed to John James Backer (biographical details | all objects)
Formerly attributed to Edward Byng (biographical details | all objects)
Formerly attributed to Robert Byng (biographical details | all objects)
Date
1623-1651
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)


Description
Head of an old woman; her head covered in drapery, in profile to left, looking upwards and smiling.

Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper.

Verso: Laid down.

No watermark visible.

Inscriptions
Inscription Content: Inscribed lower right, in pen and black ink: 'Backer invent.'; verso, top right, in pen and black ink: '72'; and upper centre: 'AW' [in mon.], and below this, 'f'.


Dimensions
Height: 399 millimetres (chain lines vertical, 24 mm apart)
Width: 271 millimetres (top corners made up)


Condition
Somewhat faded; top corners made up; diagonal fold lower right; other minor losses and repairs to extreme edges.

Curator's comments
Catalogued by Binyon as Byng after Jacob Adriaensz. Backer and by Croft-Murray as John James Backer, but reattributed by Martin Royalton-Kisch (1995) to J. A. Backer. From a large collection of sketchbooks and studies mainly by Edward Byng.


Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, attributed to Jacob Adriaensz. Backer, cat. no.3:
Previously catalogued as by Byng aftyer J.A. Backer and later as by John James Backer (active from 1697; d. after 1705?),[1] who is recorded as a drapery painter and assistant to Sir Godfrey Kneller, the style seems close to that of J.A. Backer himself. Yet the large size of the sheet is exceptional for the earlier painter and the concentration on the head (rather than the whole body) is also unusual for him. No comparable head is to be found in Backer's other surviving works, although connections between his figure-studies on blue paper and his finished paintings are unusual.[2] A comparable old woman, however, appears in a painting by his pupil or follower, Adam Camerarius (active 1644-65), of 'Christ and the Centurion of Capernaum' now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.[3]
Some further caution about the attribution seems warranted because of its provenance. It comes from a large collection of sketchbooks and studies by Edward Byng (d.1753), who like John James Backer worked as a drapery painter in Kneller's studio. The collection included just one other drawing that was not by Byng, the work of Marcellus Laroon the elder, another assistant to Kneller. Nevertheless, on stylistic grounds an attribution to J.A. Backer seems to us preferable than one to John James Backer.

NOTES:
[1] See Lit. below.
[2] See Amsterdam-Vienna-Cambridge, 1991-2, under no.50.
[3] Sumowski, 'Gemälde', VI, no.2216, repr.

LITERATURE :

London, 1898, p.172, no.7/95 (as by Byng after J.A. Backer); London, 1960[I] , I, p.95, no.1, repr. vol.II, pl.88 (by John James Backer; see above).


Acquisition date
1897

Acquisition name
Purchased from George R Harding (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Robert Bateman Wray II (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Robert Bateman Wray I (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Robert Wray (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Margaret Wray (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Elizabeth Wray (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Cecil Wray Byng Wilkins Roberts (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Edward Byng (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
The provenance of these and other drawings that descended through the Wray family has been modified by research since the publication of ECM 1960. The wills of Edward Byng and his sister Elizabeth show that she inherited a life interest in the artist's estate and that it was then divided between her sons William Wray, Robert Bateman Wray and Charles Wray. The subsequent descent through the family is not certain, but it seems that the drawings now in the BM descended from Robert Bateman Wray to his great-granddaughter, Margaret Wray, who gave them to Cecil Wray Byng Wilkins. Edward Byng; his great-great nephew, C.W.B.W. Roberts; G.R. Harding, from whom purchased, 1897.


Exhibition History
No exhibitions recorded.


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