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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Rembrandt van Rijn/Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan/c. 1656/1658,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/1207 (accessed October 01, 2014).

 

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Overview

There is little doubt that these two portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn (see also NGA 1942.9.67) were conceived as pendants, or companion pieces. In both, light illuminates the subjects from exactly the same angle. Unfortunately, the identity of the sitters remains a mystery. The man and woman interact with reserved yet poignant warmth; he gestures toward her while looking at the viewer, and she glances in his direction while holding her feather fan so that it inclines toward him. The woman’s hairstyle and costume, including the elegant yet restrained jewelry, are all datable to the 1650s. The translucent lace collar with the elaborate lower edge that covers her shoulders and continues horizontally across her body is of a type seen in a number of portraits from this period. Her plain white cuffs edged with lace are similar to those in Rembrandt’s painting of A Woman Holding a Pink dated 1656.

The early history of these paintings is shrouded in mystery, but by 1803 they had entered the collection of Prince Nicolai Yusupov (1751–1831) in Saint Petersburg. The first published descriptions of the pair, in 1864, already mention their "extraordinary energy," and the paintings made a tremendous impression at the great Rembrandt exhibition in Amsterdam in 1898. When Nicolai’s great-great-grandson, Prince Felix Yusupov (1887–1967), escaped Russia at the start of the Revolution in 1917, he brought the family jewels and these two Rembrandt paintings with him to London. Joseph E. Widener, the future benefactor of the National Gallery of Art, purchased the pair in 1921 when the Prince’s need for cash forced him to part with his family heirlooms.

Entry

The early history of Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves [fig. 1] and Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan is shrouded in mystery, although it seems likely that they were the pair of portraits by Rembrandt listed in the Gerard Hoet sale in The Hague in 1760.[1] They had entered the Yusupov collection by 1803, when the German traveler Heinrich von Reimers saw them during his visit to the family’s palace in Saint Petersburg, then located on the Fontanka River.[2] Prince Nicolai Borisovich Yusupov (1751–1831) acquired the core of this collection on three extended trips to Europe during the late eighteenth century. In 1827 he commissioned an unpublished five-volume catalog of the paintings, sculptures, and other treasures (still in the family archives at the Arkhangelskoye State Museum & Estate outside Moscow) that included a description as well as a pen-and-ink sketch of each object. The portraits hung in the “Salon des Antiques.” His only son and heir, Prince Boris Nicolaievich Yusupov (1794–1849), published a catalog of the collection in French in 1839.[3] An 1864 publication by the director of the Berlin Museum, Gustav Waagen, included a discussion of the Yusupov collection, and his comment about the pair of Rembrandt portraits, that they were “von ausserordentlicher Energie” (of extraordinary energy), was the first of many subsequent positive responses to these works.[4]

The paintings remained secluded and unavailable to most Americans and Europeans until they were shown at the great Rembrandt exhibition in Amsterdam in 1898. There they made a tremendous impact.[5] By 1911, when Roger Fry reviewed a publication describing an exhibition of old master paintings from Russian private collections held in Saint Petersburg in 1909, he singled out these portraits as follows: “There are, it is true, many interesting and curious works, but very few masterpieces—none indeed of the first rank, if we except the already well-known Rembrandt portraits of the Youssoupoff collection. These, indeed, are of unsurpassed beauty; the woman especially must count, I think, among the greatest of all Rembrandt creations.”[6]

For those who had not had the opportunity to view the paintings in Amsterdam in 1898, engravings of the works in the commemorative volume of that exhibition or in Dr. Wilhelm von Bode’s monumental catalog of Rembrandt’s paintings, published in 1902, provided excellent visual images.[7] Perhaps it was through Bode’s publication that the paintings became known to Peter A. B. Widener, who, according to his grandson, made a special effort to visit Saint Petersburg to see these two works. Widener apparently managed to see the paintings, probably in 1909, even though Prince Felix Yusupov was reluctant to show them to visitors. “The minute [Widener] saw them, he wanted them. He made an offer, but it was promptly rejected. . . . He was very much disappointed.”[8]

Peter A. B. Widener had not as yet developed into the remarkable collector of Rembrandt paintings he was to become, but it was clear that these works made a lasting impression on him. After having been rebuffed by Yusupov, Widener turned to his London dealer, Arthur J. Sulley, to ask him to find a way to convince the prince to part with his treasures. On April 7, 1911, Sulley wrote to Widener saying that he would try to approach Yusupov in the same way that he had approached the Marquis of Lansdowne concerning Rembrandt’s The Mill: “That is to say that my friend is getting an introduction to the owner from one of his personal friends, and is trying to get him to name a price. If the owner will not name any price, I propose (if you agree) to offer him one million rubles, which is about £100,000.”[9] Apparently, though, negotiations proved to be more difficult than Sulley had expected; in a subsequent letter of May 12, 1911, he wrote to Peter’s son, Joseph Widener, that “as far as it is possible to understand anything if anyone gets the Russians we will but as I wrote you last week it is very difficult. I do not think Agnew or anyone else is working at that business now. It has been tried so often without success that people are discouraged. If I do not succeed it will not be because I have left any stone unturned.”[10] The elder Widener died in 1915 without having succeeded in purchasing the paintings.

Although the allure of Widener’s money did not in and of itself convince Prince Yusupov to sell his paintings, these offers clearly pointed out to him the immense value collectors placed upon his two Rembrandt portraits. Thus, when the Russian Revolution forced the Prince’s family to leave Russia, his son, Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov (1887–1967), took with him, among other personal possessions and family jewels, the two Rembrandt paintings.[11] When the younger Yusupov, notorious as the assassin of Rasputin, arrived in London in April 1919, stories of his dramatic escape quickly spread, enhancing the appeal of the Rembrandt paintings.[12] Yusupov sought to exploit his circumstances by offering the paintings for sale at extraordinary prices. Newspapers reported an asking price of £500,000.

In the fall of 1920, Joseph E. Widener (a collector in his own right, as well as caretaker of his father’s collection) received a letter from a Mr. Harold Hartley offering him Yusupov’s paintings for £210,000. Hartley indicated that the prince preferred to sell to an “approved buyer” rather than to a dealer, and also mentioned that the “Prince considers both paintings far superior to ‘The Mill’ and of greater value.”[13] Apparently Widener did not agree to the price, for on July 26, 1921, he received a letter from Francis Tarbox offering him the paintings. “These are being offered for sale at a very low cash price and I am in a position to negotiate same at much lower figure than they can ever again be obtained.”[14]

Joseph Widener arrived in London during the summer of 1921 and examined the paintings in a bank vault where they were being kept as collateral for a loan to the prince. Perhaps totally in good faith, or perhaps as a way to purchase the paintings for a lower price, Widener offered to pay the prince £100,000 with the stipulation that Yusupov could repurchase them within three years at eight percent interest should his financial situation improve to the point where he could once again “keep and personally enjoy these wonderful works of art.”[15] After a series of negotiations, including transatlantic cables, Yusupov agreed, and the paintings were shipped to Lynnewood Hall with much public acclaim. The £100,000 was paid to the prince by Widener’s London agent, Arthur J. Sulley, some ten years after the dealer had begun negotiations to acquire them for Widener’s father.

The story of Joseph Widener’s acquisition of these extraordinary paintings does not, however, end with the events of 1921. Shortly after Widener acquired them, the collector Calouste Gulbenkian was told by the dealer Joseph Duveen that he had “just lost the two best Rembrandts in the world to Widener. He bought them both for a hundred thousand pounds, and each of them is worth that.”[16] Gulbenkian, knowing of Widener’s arrangement with Yusupov, then offered to lend the prince £200,000 to allow him to reestablish his financial position, an offer Yusupov found hard to resist. He thus tried to force Widener to return the paintings. Widener refused, and from this ensued a notorious lawsuit in 1924–1925 over the nature of the arrangement between Widener and Yusupov. Eventually, the case was decided in Widener’s favor, and the paintings remained, along with The Mill, at the core of the collection of Rembrandts at Lynnewood Hall, the Widener estate in Elkins Park outside Philadelphia.[17]

Neither painting appears to be signed or dated, although Valentiner in his 1931 catalog of the Widener Collection noted that the portrait of the woman was signed, “Rembrandt f. 166’ [the last figure illegible].”[18] Dates given to the paintings have all been in the 1660s. When the portraits were exhibited in Amsterdam in 1898, they were dated c. 1660. Bode placed them c. 1662 in his catalog of 1902. Valentiner redated the paintings in 1921 to c. 1668, probably because he tried to identify the figures as Rembrandt’s son Titus and Magdalena van Loo, who were married in that year.[19] Although Valentiner’s identification found little approval, a date of c. 1667 was retained for the paintings in the catalog of the Widener Collection of 1923. Valentiner revised his dating to the first half of the 1660s in his 1931 publication.[20] Bredius, however, returned to the c. 1667 dating in his 1935 edition of Rembrandt’s paintings,[21] a dating that was followed by Bauch and Gerson.[22]

One exception to the consistently late dates given the paintings since the 1930s occurred in the catalog of the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1969. Here it is noted that neither the costumes nor the painting techniques indicate such a late date for the works.[23] Although these observations are not elaborated upon, the suggestion for an earlier dating than traditionally suggested is a valid one. The woman’s hairstyle, costume, and use of ornate jewelry are all datable to the 1650s rather than to the late 1660s. The translucent lace collar that covers her shoulders and whose elaborate lower edge continues horizontally across her body is seen in a number of portraits from this period, including Abraham del Court and His Wife Maria de Kaersgieter, 1654, by Bartholomeus van der Helst (c. 1613–1670) [fig. 2], and Portrait of a Young Woman, 1656, by Isaak Luttichuys (1616–1673) (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).[24] Finally, the plain white cuffs edged with lace are similar to those in Rembrandt’s A Woman Holding a Pink of 1656. Also similar in these examples is the manner in which the collar is fastened by an ornate bow and decorated with a circular pin or pendant.

The hairstyle and costume of the man are more difficult to date than are those of the woman, partly because the collar and cuffs have been altered (see Technical Summary).[25] To judge from the X-radiographs [fig. 3] [see X-radiography], the simple rectangular shape of the collar the man originally wore was also comparable to styles in the mid-1650s. After the early 1660s, fashions changed, and men began to wear collars that extended farther down the chest (see, for example, Portrait of a Man in a Tall Hat). Just when Rembrandt provided the sitter with a more decorative lace collar is not known, but the alteration probably occurred in the late 1650s.[26]

Costume styles are usually only a rough measurement of date because old styles were frequently worn after new ones were introduced, particularly by older and more conservative people. These sitters, however, appear to be in their late thirties or early forties, and, judging from the woman’s jewelry, wealthy. It seems unlikely that they would have had themselves portrayed in outmoded fashions, which, on the basis of costume analysis, would suggest a date for these portraits in the mid-to-late 1650s.

Stylistically, such a date for these paintings is also compatible with Rembrandt’s other works. In no painting of his from the mid-1660s does one find the careful modeling of the woman’s hands and face, the suggestions of texture as seen in her features, jewelry, and lace, or the broad planar way in which forms are illuminated by the light. No hint of the palette knife is to be found in either work. Similarities of style and technique, however, do exist in paintings from the late 1650s, in particular between the woman and Rembrandt’s portrait of Catherine Hooghsaet, signed and dated 1657 (Penrhyn Castle, Wales).[27] The left hand of each sitter, for example, is depicted in a similar manner.

The portrait of the man is more boldly executed than that of the woman in that the modeling does not have the same restrained, planar quality. Brushstrokes on the man’s face are broken and roughly juxtaposed as Rembrandt modeled his sharply illuminated features with sure strokes of varying tones of pinks and ochers. The boldness of Rembrandt’s touch originally must have been even more pronounced, for X-radiographs demonstrate that both of the man’s cuffs and hands were more abstractly rendered than they now appear. The fact that the gloves held by the gentleman in his left hand are cut at the bottom edge of the composition suggests that the paintings were once slightly larger. One could imagine that the figures were initially situated in a more spacious setting, which suggests that they have been trimmed on all sides.  The dimensions of the pendant portraits in the Hoet sale of 1760 loosely correspond to the paintings’ current sizes, so any reduction in size must have occurred at an earlier date.[28]

The bold manner with which Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves is executed is related to Rembrandt’s painting technique in male portraits of the late 1650s. In earlier portraits, such as Jan Six, 1654 [fig. 4], Rembrandt firmly modeled the face with similar short, bold strokes, but his approach in these two instances is slightly different. Whereas the short strokes in the face of the Six portrait join to form distinct planes of light and color, those in the Washington portrait are more roughly executed and loosely blended. In this respect they approach the technique he used in his A Young Man Seated at a Table (possibly Govaert Flinck), which dates c. 1660. Particularly close in these two portraits are the techniques used to model the nose, where strokes from the flesh tones are drawn over a darker color that defines the shadowed edge of the nostril. Similar techniques occur in the shadowed areas around the eyes [fig. 5] and [fig. 6].

An unusual technical feature reinforces the probability that Rembrandt executed these two portraits in the late 1650s: they were both originally painted on a herringbone-weave canvas, a support Rembrandt is not known to have used earlier in his career. The paintings were removed from these supports and transferred onto finely woven canvases. Presumably, this transfer was made in Russia in the nineteenth century.[29]

There seems little question that these works were conceived as companion portraits. Not only were they together in the Yusupov collection by the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the poses assumed by the figures are comparable to those in pendant paintings by other masters. Sir Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599 - 1641), for example, painted pendant portraits of Peeter Stevens and Anna Wake in 1627 and 1628 (Mauritshuis, The Hague), in which Stevens gestures to his bride, who holds an ostrich-feather fan in her hand.[30] In 1641 Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck (Dutch, 1606/1609 - 1662) painted a standing couple in much the same way: he holding his gloves (Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede)[31], she an ostrich-feather fan (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).[32] In Rembrandt’s portraits the subtle interaction of the two, he gesturing toward her while looking at the viewer and she glancing in his direction and holding the fan so that it inclines toward him, is restrained yet poignant. Their expressions have qualities of warmth and trust that convey much about the nature of human relationships.

The question that remains unanswered is the identity of the sitters. The circle of wealthy friends and acquaintances at that period of Rembrandt’s life who might have ordered portraits was rather small. Valentiner’s hypothesis that they represented Rembrandt’s son Titus and his wife, Magdalena van Loo, has long since been rejected. A suggestion by Dr. I. H. van Eeghen that they represent Jacob Louysz Trip (1636–1664) and his wife, Margarita Hendricksdr Trip (1637–1711), is doubtful.[33] Van Eeghen’s premise was primarily that the Trip family was one of the few rich families in Amsterdam that continued to give portrait commissions to Rembrandt during his later years. Nevertheless, these sitters appear to be in their late thirties or early forties and not in their twenties, as Jacob and Margarita would have been in the late 1650s.[34] None of these possible identities can, however, be verified, which is particularly unfortunate because so little is known about Rembrandt’s patrons at this stage of his career.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Gerard Hoet, Jr. [d. 1760], The Hague; possibly (sale, by Ottho Van Thol, Huibert Keetelaar, and Pierre Yver, The Hague, 25 August 1760, no. 50).[1] Prince Nicolai Borisovich Yusupov [1751-1831], Saint Petersburg and Moscow, by 1803;[2] by inheritance to his son, Prince Boris Nicolaiovich Yusupov [1794-1849], Moscow and Saint Petersburg; by inheritance to his son, Prince Nicolai Borisovich Yusupov [1827-1891], Saint Petersburg; by inheritance to his daughter, Princess Zinaida [Zenaida] Nikolaievna Yusupova [1861-1939], Saint Petersburg, Yalta, and London;[3] sold 1921 by her son and heir, Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov [1887-1967],[4] to Joseph E. Widener; inheritance from Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase by funds of the Estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1898
Rembrandt: Schilderijen Bijeengebracht ter Gelegenheid van de Inhuldiging van Hare Majesteit Koningin Wilhelmina, Stedelij Museum, Amsterdam, 1898, no. 111.
1909
Les anciennes Ecoles de Peinture dans les Palais et Collections privées Russes, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1909, no. 282.
1969
Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art [Commemorating the Tercentenary of the Artist's Death], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, no. 15, 25, repro.
1997
Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Dutch Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 1997, unnumbered brochure, repro.
2001
A Scholar's Whim: The Collection of Prince Nicolai Borisovich Yusupov, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2001-2002, no. 121, repro. (shown only in Moscow).

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1952
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1952
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1960
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1962
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1963
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1964
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1965
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1966
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1966
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1968
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1968
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1969
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1969
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1969
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1969
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1972
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1975
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1975
Wright, Christopher. Rembrandt and His Art. London and New York, 1975: 119-122, pl. 100.
1977
Bolten, J., and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Translated by Danielle Adkinson. Milan and Chicago, 1977: repro. 166, color detail 167, 168, repro. 203, no. 564.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 70-71, pl. 56.
1982
Kitson, Michael. Rembrandt. 2nd ed. Oxford, 1982: no. 46, color repro.
1983
Eeghen, I. H. van. "De familie Trip en het Trippenhuis" in Het Trippenhuis te Amsterdam. Edited by R. Meischke and H.E. Reese. Amsterdam 1983: 27-126, repro. 26.
1984
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: Zijn leven, zijn schilderijen. Maarssen, 1984: 344-345, no. 407, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 276, no. 359, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 333, repro.
1985
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: His Life, His Paintings. New York, 1985: 344-345, no. 407, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt: das Bild des Menschen. Translated by Renate Renner. Stuttgart, 1986: 377, nos. 429-430, color repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt, the human form and spirit. Translated by Suzanne Boorsch et al. New York, 1986: no. nos. 429-430, color repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 314.
1986
Tümpel, Christian. Rembrandt. Translated by Jacques and Jean Duvernet, Léon Karlson, and Patrick Grilli. Paris, 1986: repro. 329, 416, no. 250.
1990
Liedtke, Walter A. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and their Ideals." In Great Dutch Paintings from America. Edited by Ben P.J. Broos. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 43, 58 n. 132.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 199, color repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 252-261, color repro. 255.
1996
Davis, Marian L. Visual Design in Dress. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1996: 51, repro.
1997
Mittler, Gene A., and Rosalind Ragans. Understanding Art. New York, 1997: 182, fig.12-6.
1997
Neverov, Oleg, and Mikhail Piotrovsky. The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection, Saint Petersburg, 1997: 169, repro.
2000
Wright, Christopher. Rembrandt. Collection Les Phares 10. Translated by Paul Alexandre. Paris, 2000: 234, fig. 226.
2001
Savinskaya, Liubov. A Scholar's Whim: The Collection of Prince Nikolai Borisovich Yusupov. 2 vols. Exh. cat. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 2001: no. 121, repro.
2001
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 96-97, color repro.
2002
Quodbach, Esmée. "The Last of the American Versailles: The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002): 84-85, 96.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 202, no. 159, color repro.
2004
Neverov, Oleg Yakovlevich. Great Private Collections of Imperial Russia. New York and Saint Petersburg, 2004: 102.
2004
Scallen, Catherine. Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship. Amsterdam, 2004: 136, fig. 28.
2006
Deryabina, Ekaterina. "The Yusupovs as Collectors." in Collectors in St. Petersburg. Edited by Sergej O. Androsov and Vincent Boele. Exh. cat. Hermitage Amsterdam. Zwolle, 2006: 46.
2011
Keyes, George S., Tom Rassieur, and Dennis P. Weller. Rembrandt in America: collecting and connoisseurship. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Cleveland Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts. New York, 2011: 134-135, fig. 70.

Technical Summary

Presumably, this painting was transferred in Russia in the nineteenth century at the same time as Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves. The original fabric support was removed and the painting was transferred to a fine, plain-weave fabric with a gauzelike fabric interleaf. A herringbone pattern in the background paint probably indicates the original canvas weave. Because the painting has been transferred, it is impossible to determine if the painting’s dimensions have been altered from an assessment of the support. The original yellowish quartz-type ground layer was retained at the time of transfer and reinforced with an additional, thick white layer that contains zinc white, a pigment available only after 1840.[1]

The paint handling varies from thin glazes to rich, blended strokes with stiff paste accents in a broad range of brushwork and layering. The painting is in excellent condition. It may have been restored in 1922 at the same time as its companion, Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves.[2] It was treated in 2006–2007 to remove discolored varnish and overpaint. The treatment revealed only small losses along the edges and a cluster of losses in the background on the left side.

 

[1] The ground was analyzed the by the NGA Scientific Research department using cross-sections.

[2] A letter from Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, dated January 8, 1985, in NGA curatorial files discusses a treatment of Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves, which was begun by Louis de Wild and his son, but completed by someone else. Though Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan was not treated by the De Wilds, it was probably treated by the person who completed the treatment of its companion. See note 22 of this object's entry.

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Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 1] Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves, c. 1656/1658, oil on canvas transferred to canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.67
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  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 2] Bartholomeus van der Helst, Abraham del Court and His Wife Maria de Kaersgieter, 1654, oil on canvas, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam
    Compare Image
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 3] X-radiograph composite, Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves, c. 1656/1658, oil on canvas transferred to canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.67
    Compare Image
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 4] Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Six, 1654, oil on canvas, Six Collection, Amsterdam
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  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 5] Detail of eyes, Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan, c. 1656/1658, oil on canvas transferred to canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.68
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 6] Detail of eyes, Rembrandt van Rijn, A Young Man Seated at a Table (possibly Govaert Flinck), c. 1660, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.77
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  • [1]

    This entry text was written for the pair of paintings Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves and Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan.

  • [2]

    Heinrich Christoph von Reimers, St. Petersburg, am Ende seines Ersten Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. (Saint Petersburg, 1805), 2:373.

  • [3]

    Frederick R. Andresen, through his colleague Evgeny Maksakov, kindly provided the NGA library with a photocopy of this catalogue (Musée du Prince Youssoupoff [Saint Petersburg, 1839]). See also: Oleg Yakovlevich Neverov, Great Private Collections of Imperial Russia (New York and Saint Petersburg, 2004), 89–98.

  • [4]

    Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen (Munich, 1864), 414: “Ein männliches und ein weibliches Bildniss, fast Kniestücke. Pendants. Von ausserordentlicher Energie. Der kühle Ton der Lichter, wie der Schatten. die sehr breite Behandlung, beweisen, dass diese Bilder der spateren Zeit angehören.” The Rembrandt paintings were not mentioned in Louis Viardot, Les musées d'Allemagne et de Russie (Paris, 1844); however, as Viardot only listed a few works, many of which were the same as those discussed by Waagen some twenty years later (see Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Ermitage zu St. Petersburg nebst Bemerkungen über andere dortige Kunstsammlungen [Munich, 1864]), one wonders if he saw the total collection. According to later reports, the family had always been quite reluctant to show off their treasures, so it is possible that Viardot was not given access to them. An article on Joseph Widener’s acquisition of the paintings (American Art News 20 [December 10, 1921], 4) quoted a London Times article in which it was written that: “The grandfather of the present Prince was a man of parsimonious disposition who guarded his picture gallery from all ordinary mortals and sightseers. At a ball given in the palace to the Imperial Court, Czar Alexander III wished to see the Rembrandts. Prince Youssoupoff (sic) personally conducted the czar and two Grand Dukes to see his gallery but kept out all other guests.” Peter A. B. Widener (Joseph Widener’s son, given his grandfather’s name), Without Drums (New York, 1940), 61, writes that the czar was allowed to see the collection only after he ordered Youssoupoff to unlock his picture gallery. Did the prince fear a request by the czar to transfer some of the paintings to the imperial collection at the Hermitage? 

  • [5]

    The London Times (September 15, 1898), for example, described “the immortal, unchanging interest” of these two portraits. See Catherine B. Scallen, Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship (Amsterdam, 2004), 136, who cites the comments of the art critic Jan Veth, who considered these portraits “true touchstones for questions of authenticity, with their beautiful execution and powerful chiaroscuro.”

  • [6]

    Roger Fry, “Review and Notices,” The Burlington Magazine 19 (September 1911): 353.

  • [7]

    Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, “Die Rembrandt-Ausstellungen zu Amsterdam (September–October 1898) und zu London (January–March 1899),” Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 22 (1899), nos. 34–35. Wilhelm von Bode assisted by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, The Complete Work of Rembrandt, trans. Florence Simmonds, 8 vols. (Paris, 1897–1906), 7: nos. 489–490. The high quality of the reproductions in Bode’s publication was remarked upon by Roger Fry in 1921 when he had the occasion to publish photographs of the paintings in his article,  “Two Rembrandt Portraits,” The Burlington Magazine 38 (May 1921): 210.

  • [8]

    Peter A. B. Widener, Without Drums (New York, 1940), 60–64. The date of Widener’s purported trip is not known. His grandson writes that he went to Russia “around the turn of the century.” According to Dr. Ronald Moe (author of Prelude to the Revolution: The Murder of Rasputin [Chula Vista, CA, 2011]), a more probable date is 1909, the year the Kiel Canal opened, which would have provided access to Saint Petersburg for Widener’s yacht Josephine. In that year also the paintings were on public exhibition in Saint Petersburg for the first time since being lent to Amsterdam in 1898. The “Prince Yusupov” with whom the negotiations were carried out during those years was Felix, count Sumarokov-Elston (1856–1928), husband of Princess Zinaide Yusupova, the last surviving representative of the Yusupov family. He was given the right to take his wife’s name and title, but the art collection was actually hers.

  • [9]

    Letter in NGA curatorial files.

  • [10]

    Letter in NGA curatorial files. Sulley may indeed have traveled to Saint Petersburg to try to arrange for the purchase prior to the start of World War I in 1914. An article in American Art News 20 (December 17, 1921), 4, says that “the late P. A. B. Widener before the war sent an emissary to Russia and arranged for their purchase, the price being $500,000. Prince Youssoupoff backed out of the deal by cable, after the emissary had returned to England.”

  • [11]

    Felix Felixovich, according to Dr. Moe, was a student at Oxford from 1909 to 1912. He was not given  the title Prince Yusupov until 1914.

  • [12]

    According to Dr. Moe and Dr. Idris R. Traylor (who, before his death, was researching the Yusupov family for a planned book), the Yusupov family sailed from Yalta in the Crimea on the British warship Marlborough, which had been sent by King George V to take his aunt, the Dowager Empress Maria Federovna, to London in April 1919. Yusupov and his wife disembarked in Malta and traveled via Brindisi and Paris to London. The report by Sir Francis Pridham, a British naval officer who participated in the evacuation (Close of a Dynasty [London, 1956]), includes a photograph of young Felix Yusupov aboard the Marlborough. Contemporary reports about Yusupov’s escape from Russia, however, raise the possibility that he may have dramatized the circumstances of his flight. Charles John Holmes, Self and Partners (Mostly Self): Being the Reminiscences of C. J. Holmes (New York, 1936), 376, writes, for example: “In 1919 Prince Youssoupoff suddenly appeared with his two famous Rembrandt portraits, still concealed by the ‘Modernist’ canvases under which he had contrived to bring them out of Russia. Thrilling as was his account of the death of Rasputin, the story of his own escape, in the disguise of an art student, with the family jewels swathed around his body in long, painful chains, was no less vivid. Trying indeed must the moment have been when a kommissar, much interested in the arts, took a fancy to one of the Prince’s first experiments in painting, and wanted to buy it, in ignorance of the fact that it covered a Rembrandt masterpiece.” Variants of this story appeared in news reports in 1921 (see NGA curatorial files). The artist who painted over the two Rembrandt paintings was a friend of Yusupov, Gleb W. Derujinsky, who later immigrated to the United States and became a successful sculptor. I would like to thank Andrea Derujinsky for providing me with biographical information about her grandfather and his relationship to Yusupov (personal communication, July 2013).

  • [13]

    Letter, October 20, 1920, in NGA curatorial files.

  • [14]

    Letter in NGA curatorial files.

  • [15]

    Samuel N. Behrman, Duveen (New York, 1952), 18 (also 1972 ed., 16). According to Dr. Moe, Behrman’s implication that Yusupov’s reacquisition of the paintings was contingent upon a restoration of the old regime in Russia is inaccurate. A cable from Joseph Widener dated September 19, 1922, says that the purchase contract “provides that re-purchase can be made only for Prince Youssoupoffs [sic] personal enjoyment of the pictures and that I am to receive satisfactory assurances and guarantees that pictures or title to same will not pass out of his possession for ten year period.” The cable is in the Duveen Brothers records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 383, box 528, folder 4 (see also copies in NGA curatorial files).

  • [16]

    Samuel N. Behrman, Duveen (New York, 1952), 18 (also 1972 ed., 16).

  • [17]

    Transcripts from the trial (kindly provided by Frederick Andresen) and copies of the newspaper coverage of it by the New York Times are in NGA curatorial files. See also Samuel N. Behrman, Duveen (New York, 1952), 22–24 (also 1972 ed., 20); John Walker, Self-Portrait with Donors: Confessions of an Art Collector (Boston and Toronto, 1974), 244.

  • [18]

    Pictures in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1931), 74–77.

  • [19]

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Rembrandt: wiedergefundene Gemälde (1910–1920), Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben, 27 (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921), 484–485.

  • [20]

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Rembrandt Paintings in America (New York, 1931), nos. 171–172. Valentiner dates them “slightly after paintings dated 1662.”

  • [21]

    Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt, Schilderijen (Vienna, 1935), no. 327, 14 note.

  • [22]

    Kurt Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde (Berlin, 1966), nos. 446 and 528, 23 note 446, 26 note 528; Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, revised by Horst Gerson (London, 1969), 255, 313, 575 note 327, 582 note 402.

  • [23]

    Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art (Washington, 1969), 25.

  • [24]

    See inventory no. C1477, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

  • [25]

    Pierre Paul von Weiner et al., Les anciennes écoles de peinture dans les palais et collections privées Russes (Brussels, 1910), 8, lament the damage that had occurred to the Yusupov paintings as a result of poor restoration: “Cette collection est restée intacte, on plutôt seulement complète, car la restauration du professeur Prakhoff y causa tout récemment un dommage irréparable: un certain nombre de toiles . . . en a cruellement souffert.” Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann (letter January 8, 1985, NGA curatorial files) has kindly provided information about the twentieth-century restoration: “I spoke with C. F. Louis de Wild who checked his notes. The paintings were brought to his father’s home by Duveen in 1922. His father was mortally ill at the time, and only cleaned the man, with the help of his son (Louis), but did not retouch, inpaint or complete the restoration in any way. Louis does not remember what the painting looked like at the time. The woman was not touched. What this means is that De Wild Sr. and Jr. started cleaning the man in 1922, then gave up because of personal circumstances. Neither he nor I know who did carry out the cleaning.” 

  • [26]

    The billowing cuffs are more elaborate than the normal flat cuffs, but they do resemble those seen in Bartholomeus van der Helst’s Portrait of a Young Man, 1655 (Toledo Museum of Art), inventory no. 76.12; see The Toledo Museum of Art: European Paintings (Toledo, Ohio, 1976), 247, no. 101, repro.

  • [27]

    Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, revised by Horst Gerson (London, 1969), no. 391, repro.

  • [28]

    Gerard Hoet, Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderijen..., 2 vols. (The Hague, 1752), with supplement by Pieter Terwesten (1770) (reprint, Soest, 1976), 3:225, nos. 49 and 50, where they are described as being “hoog 39, breet 30 ½ duimen.”

  • [29]

    Inscribed in Russian on the back of the Portrait of a Gentleman with a Tall Hat and Gloves is: “Painting transferred from an old canvas onto a new canvas. I. Sidorov.” Translation kindly made by Dauphine Sloan.

  • [30]

    See inventory nos. 239, 240, Mauritshuis, The Hague. Discussed by Wheelock in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. et al., Anthony van Dyck (Washington, 1990), 196–200.

  • [31]

    See inventory no. 515, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede.

  • [32]

    See inventory no. A3064, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. For both, see Rudolf E. O. Ekkart, Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck (Haarlem, 1979), 158, no. 32, repro., 161, no. 33, repro.

  • [33]

    I. H. van Eeghen, “De familie Trip en het Trippenhuis,” in Het Trippenhuis te Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Oxford, and New York, 1983), 71–73, 121 note 105.

  • [34]

    Henriette Rahusen  has suggested (personal communication, 2010) that the man bears great similarity to Aernout van der Mye (c. 1625–1681), the second man from the left in Rembrandt’s Syndics of the Cloth Drapers’ Guild (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on loan from the city of Amsterdam, see the entry on Portrait of a Man in a Tall Hat, fig. 1), which the master executed in 1662. Aernout van der Mye was a Roman Catholic cloth merchant whose home on the Nieuwendijk 186 housed one of Amsterdam’s “hidden” Catholic churches in 1656.  If the male sitter proves to be Van der Mye, Lady with the Ostrich-Feather Fan would be a portrait of his wife, Johanna Vloots. For information on Van der Mye, see S. A. C. Dudok van Heel, Van Amsterdamse Burgers tot Europese Aristocraten, 2 vols. (The Hague, 2008), 1:303.