After learning the fundamentals of drawing and painting in his native Leiden, Rembrandt van Rijn went to Amsterdam in 1624 to study for six months with Pieter Lastman (1583–1633), a famous history painter. Upon completion of his training Rembrandt returned to Leiden. Around 1632 he moved to Amsterdam, quickly establishing himself as the town’s leading artist, specializing in history paintings and portraiture. He received many commissions and attracted a number of students who came to learn his method of painting.
This broad, impressionistic sketch of a bearded old man wearing a beret is one of four oil studies on panel that depict the same model. Traditionally, these works have been considered autograph sketches by Rembrandt in preparation for his painting Saint Matthew and the Angel of 1661, now in the Louvre, Paris. However, since the late 1960s, the attribution of these sketches to Rembrandt has been called into question. It seems probable that this Head of Saint Matthew and the other tronies depicting this figure were made by pupils of Rembrandt while the master was occupied with the Louvre painting.
This freely brushed sketch of a bearded old man wearing a beret is one of four oil studies on panel that depict the same model.
The other three studies are: Head of an Old Man, panel, 25 x 22 cm, Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt, Schilderijen [Vienna, 1935], 303; Head of an Old Man, panel 24.5 x 20 cm, Alfred and Isabel Bader Collection, Milwaukee (David de Witt, The Bader Collection: Dutch and Flemish Paintings [Kingston, 2008], 273–274, no. 165, repro.); and Head of an Old Man, panel, 27 x 22 cm, formerly William McAneeny, Detroit (Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt, Schilderijen [Vienna, 1935], 305). Another study of the same man, also attributed to Rembrandt, is in the Museo Nacionale de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (oil on paper set down on panel, 22 x 16 cm).
The opinion was most recently expressed by Jakob Rosenberg, Seymour Slive, and E. H. ter Kuile, Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600–1800 (Baltimore, 1966), 78.
Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, revised by Horst Gerson (London, 1969), 573, no. 304.
The broad, impressionistic handling of the paint in Head of Saint Matthew was considered a hallmark of Rembrandt’s late style when this sketch first entered the Rembrandt literature in the 1880s. Indeed, during the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, a large number of sketches attributed to Rembrandt’s later years were added to his oeuvre, particularly by Wilhelm von Bode and Wilhelm Valentiner. Scholars now recognize that many of these works, including this one, lack the structure of form that underlies Rembrandt’s own creations. An X-radiograph [see
A photographic or digital image analysis method that visually records an object's ability to absorb or transmit x-rays. The differential absorption pattern is useful for examining an object's internal structure as well as for comparing the variation in pigment types.
The first scholar to reject the attribution to Rembrandt in print was Bauch in 1966.
Kurt Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde (Berlin, 1966), 48, suggested that this sketch was based on another similiar sketch (Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt, Schilderijen [Vienna, 1935], 13, no. 304), rather than on the painting Saint Matthew and the Angel in the Louvre, Paris, as Bredius proposed.
J. Q. van Regteren Altena, review of Kurt Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde (Berlin, 1966), Oud-Holland 82 (1967): 70–71.
Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, revised by Horst Gerson (London, 1969), no. 305.
Dating such studies can be extremely difficult, because followers of Rembrandt from his own time through the nineteenth century have emulated his work with little variation in style. In this instance examinations of the paints and panel have not yielded information that helps provide a specific chronological framework for the painting. Although the character of the paints is consistent with seventeenth-century studio practice, similar materials are also found on later paintings. The only unusual feature for Rembrandt is the presence of verdigris under the beard, but verdigris is found in seventeenth-century paintings. Although
A method of dating wood by examining the annual growth rings.
Because of differences in the figure’s expression and in the character of the beret, it is unlikely that this study is a copy of the head of Saint Matthew from Saint Matthew and the Angel. It seems more probable that it and the other tronies depicting this figure were made in Rembrandt’s workshop while the master was occupied with the Louvre painting.
The only other instance for which there exists a number of studies from the same model by both Rembrandt and his workshop is Head of a Young Jew from the 1640s (Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt, Schilderijen [Vienna, 1935], 620–627). See also Lloyd DeWitt, ed., Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus (New Haven, Conn., 2011).
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
Alfred Buckley, New Hall, England, by 1882. Rodolphe Kann [1845-1905], Paris, probably after 1893 but by 1900; purchased 1907 with the entire Kann collection by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold to (F. Kleinberger & Co., Paris); by exchange to (Leo Nardus [1868-1955], Suresnes, France, and New York); by exchange early 1909 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1882, no. 99.
- Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art [Commemorating the Tercentenary of the Artist's Death], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, no. 9, repro.
- Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of works by the old masters, and by deceased masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1882: 23, no. 99.
- Bode, Wilhelm von. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883: 590, no. 248.
- Dutuit, Eugène. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt: catalogue historique et descriptif; supplément à l'Oeuvre complet de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885: 43, 64, 69, no. 418.
- Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps. Paris, 1893: 432-433, 559.
- Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. 2 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. New York, 1894: 2:114, 235.
- Bode, Wilhelm von, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. 8 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. Paris, 1897-1906: 7:15, 106, no. 522, repro., 8: 378.
- Bode, Wilhelm von. Gemälde-sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900: vii, pl. 7.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart, 1904: 237, repro.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906: repro. 362, 405.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 6(1916):100, no. 174.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 6(1915):100, no. 174.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. New York, 1907: 362, repro.
- Sedelmeyer, Charles. Catalogue of Rodolphe Kann Collection. 2 vols. Paris, 1907: 1:iv, no. 73.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 3rd ed. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1908: repro. 455.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1909: repro. 455.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. "Nieuw Ontdekte Rembrandts, II." Onze Kunst 22 (December 1912): 182 pl. 9, 187-188.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 3(1914):1011, no. 99.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: intro., no. 39, repro. as by Rembrandt van Rijn.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. 2nd ed. New York, 1913: repro. 455.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. The Art of the Low Countries. Translated by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer. Garden City, NY, 1914: 249, no. 85.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Classics in Art 2. 3rd ed. New York, 1921: 455, repro.
- Meldrum, David S. Rembrandt’s Painting, with an Essay on His Life and Work. New York, 1923: 202, no. 416A.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as by Rembrandt Harmensz Van Rijn.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: no. 155, repro.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931: no. 155, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen. Vienna, 1935: no. 302, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Schilderijen, 630 Afbeeldingen. Utrecht, 1935: no. 302, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. New York, 1936: no. 302, repro.
- Waldman, Emil. "Die Sammlung Widener." Pantheon 22 (November 1938): 342.
- Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. 2 vols. Translated by John Byam Shaw. Oxford, 1942: 1:no. 302, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 6, as by Rembrandt van Ryn.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 43, repro., as by Rembrandt van Ryn.
- Duveen, James Henry. The Rise of the House of Duveen. New York, 1957: 234.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 42, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963: 314, repro., as by Rembrandt van Rijn.
- Usarralde, Hilda. De El Greco a Tiepolo. Exh. cat. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Argentina). Buenos Aires, 1964: no. 101, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 110, as by Rembrandt.
- Bauch, Kurt. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966: 48, no. 302.
- Rosenberg, Jakob, Seymour Slive, and Engelbert H. ter Kuile. Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600–1800. Pelican History of Art. Baltimore, 1966: 78, repro.
- Regteren Altena, J.Q. van. "Review of Bauch 1966." Oud Holland 82 (1967): 70-71.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 98, repro., as by Rembrandt.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Revised by Horst Gerson. 3rd ed. London, 1969: repro. 230, 573, no. 302.
- National Gallery of Art. Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art: Commemorating the tercentenary of the artist's death. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1969: 19, no. 9, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 286, repro., as by Rembrandt.
- Fowles, Edward. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976: 52.
- Rosenberg, Jakob, Seymour Slive, and Engelbert H. ter Kuile. Dutch Art and Architecture. The Pelican History of Art. Revised ed. Harmondsworth, 1984: 78, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 334, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 333-336, color repro. 335.
- Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding art. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1998: 94, fig. 407.
- Quodbach, Esmée. "The Last of the American Versailles: The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002): 71.
- Lopez, Jonathan. "‘Gross False Pretenses’: The Misdeeds of Art Dealer Leo Nardus." Apollo ser. 2, 166, no. 548 (December 2007): 80-81, fig. 8.
- De Witt, David. The Bader Collection: Dutch and Flemish paintings. Agnes Etherington Art Centre Catalogues. Kingston, Ont., 2008: 273, 274 n. 3.
The support is a vertically grained, thin, oak panel beveled on the back on all sides. It is not quarter sawn, resulting in an irregular grain pattern, and contains no sapwood, precluding the dating of the panel by dendrochronology. The paint was applied over a granular gray ground. Pastose paint was used in the head and thin glazes were employed in the background. Many areas were worked wet-into-wet. Analysis indicates that the pigments are consistent with those found in seventeenth-century studio practice. The painting, which is in excellent condition, was treated in 1994 to remove discolored varnish and inpainting.
 Dendrochronology report by Dr. Joseph Bauch, Universität Hamburg (see report dated November 29, 1977, in NGA Conservation department files).
 Pigments were analyzed by the Scientific Research department using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (see reports dated June 29, 1994, and August 1, 1994, in NGA Conservation department files).
Related IconClass Terms
- old man
- conservation of a work of art