Overview

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.

Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, came from a patrician family in Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland; her father served as the town’s burgomaster. Hendrik van Uylenburgh, Saskia’s cousin, was a painter and flourishing art dealer in Amsterdam. After moving to Amsterdam Rembrandt invested in Van Uylenburgh’s business and came to live in the art dealer’s house. The promising young painter must have met Saskia soon thereafter. They married in 1634, a year after their betrothal, and were together until her death in 1642. The couple had four children, but only Titus, born in 1641, survived infancy.

Rembrandt’s many drawings, etchings, and paintings of Saskia have left us with varied depictions of her personality, including her warmth and tenderness, but also a certain aloofness; her zest for life, but also the debilitating illness that frequently weakened her after the mid-1630s. Rembrandt probably began this painting around 1634–1635, shortly after their marriage. Saskia, wearing a fashionable dress, glances over her right shoulder

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Bourchier Cleeve [d. 1760], Foots Cray Place, Kent; by inheritance to his daughter, Elizabeth; by marriage 1765 to her husband, Sir George Yonge, Bart., London; (his sale, at his residence by Mr. White, London, 24-25 March 1806, 2nd day, no. 79); Foster. William Wells [1760-1847], Redleaf, near Penshurst, Kent, by 1831;[1] by inheritance to his grandnephew, William Wells [1818-1889], Redleaf; (his granduncle's estate sale, Christie & Manson, London, 12-13 May 1848, no. 67, probably bought in for or by Wells); (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 10 and 12 May 1890, no. 93); (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London); Henry Bingham Mildmay [1828-1905], Shoreham Place, Kent, and Flete House, Devon; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 24 June 1893, no. 58); (Wertheimer, London). (Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris); sold 30 July 1894 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, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1831
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1831, no. 85.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 81.
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. 2, 12, repro.
2003
Dutch and Flemish Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 2003, no cat.
2005
Loan for display with permanent collection, The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York, 2005.

Bibliography

1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 7(1836):183, no. 576.
1836
Passavant, Johann David. Tour of a German artist in England. 2 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby. London, 1836: 2:71-72.
1885
Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P. A. B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):241, repro.
1894
Sedelmeyer, Charles. Illustrated Catalogue of 100 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French and English Schools belonging to the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1894: 38, no. 31, repro.
1897
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. 8 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. Paris, 1897-1906: 3:6, 50, no. 153, repro.
1899
Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899: 185.
1904
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart, 1904: 98, repro.
1906
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906: repro. 98.
1907
Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn. The great masters in painting and sculpture. London, 1907: 156.
1907
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):297, no. 615.
1907
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. New York, 1907: 98.
1908
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 3rd ed. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1908: repro. 129.
1909
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart und Leipzig, 1909: repro. 98.
1909
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909: xx, 82, no. 81, repro., 155, 161.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 9, 278, no. 81, repro. 279.
1913
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: unpaginated, repro.
1913
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. 2nd ed. New York, 1913: repro. 129.
1914
Sedelmeyer, Charles. Hundred masterpieces. A selection from the pictures by old masters which form or have formed part of the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1914: 72, no. 34, repro.
1914
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. The Art of the Low Countries. Translated by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer. Garden City, NY, 1914: 244, no. 24.
1921
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Classics in Art 2. 3rd ed. New York, 1921: 129, repro.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt: wiedergefundene Gemälde (1910-1922). Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 27. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 129, repro.
1923
Dyck, John C. van. Rembrandt and His School. New York, 1923: 124.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Meldrum, David S. Rembrandt’s Painting, with an Essay on His Life and Work. New York, 1923: 41, 67, pl. 167.
1930
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28, no. 30 (26 April 1930): 3.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 60, repro.
1931
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931: intro., no. 51, pl. 30.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen. Vienna, 1935: no. 96, repro.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Schilderijen, 630 Afbeeldingen. Vienna, 1935: no. 96, repro.
1936
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. New York, 1936: no. 96, repro.
1938
Waldmann, Emil. "Die Sammlung Widener." Pantheon 22 (November 1938): 336, 341.
1942
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. 2 vols. Translated by John Byam Shaw. Oxford, 1942: no. 96, repro.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 6.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948: 36, repro.
1959
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 36, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963: 312, repro.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 111.
1966
Bauch, Kurt. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966: no. 488, repro.
1968
Gerson, Horst. Rembrandt Paintings. Amsterdam, 1968: 292, 495, no. 174, repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 96, repro.
1969
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Revised by Horst Gerson. 3rd ed. London, 1969: no. 96, repro.
1969
Haak, Bob. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, His Time. Translated by Elizabeth Willems-Treeman. New York, 1969: 92, no. 134, repro.
1969
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: 12, no. 2, repro.
1973
Louttit, Margaret. "The Romantic Dress of Saskia van Ulenborch: Its Pastoral and Theatrical Associations." The Burlington Magazine 65 (May 1973): 317-326, repro. no. 76.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 290-291, no. 667, repro.
1977
Bolten, J., and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Translated by Danielle Adkinson. Milan and Chicago, 1977: 180, no. 166.
1977
Kettering, Alison McNeil. "Rembrandt’s Flute player: a unique treatment of pastoral." Simiolus 9 (1977): 19-44.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 49, pl. 26.
1981
Janson, Anthony F. "Rembrandt in the Indianapolis Museum of Art." Perceptions 1 (1981): 6-21.
1981
Miller, David A. "Conservator’s Report." Perceptions 1 (1981): 23-33.
1984
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: Zijn leven, zijn schilderijen. Maarssen, 1984: 190, no. 204, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 273, no. 352, 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: 190, no. 204, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt: das Bild des Menschen. Translated by Renate Renner. Stuttgart, 1986: no. 331, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt, the human form and spirit. Translated by Suzanne Boorsch, et al. New York, 1986: no. 331, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 312, no. 467, repro.
1986
Tümpel, Christian. Rembrandt. Translated by Jacques and Jean Duvernet, Léon Karlson, and Patrick Grilli. Paris, 1986: 114, 410, no. 183, repro.
1989
Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. Vol. 3: 1635-1642. Edited by Josua Bruyn, et al. Dordrecht, Boston, and London, 1989: 651-656, repro.
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. Zwolle, 1990: 42.
1991
Grimm, Claus. Rembrandt selbst: Eine Neuhewertung seiner Porträtkunst. Stuttgart, 1991: 61, fig. 105, 72, color repro. 36 (detail).
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 210-215, color repro. 211.
1999
Schama, Simon. Rembrandt's Eyes. New York, 1999: 354, repro.
2000
Wright, Christopher. Rembrandt. Collection Les Phares 10. Translated by Paul Alexandre. Paris, 2000: 306, fig. 307.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 202, no. 158, color repro.
2013
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago, 2013: 235, 248, 250.

Conservation Notes

The cradled wood support consists of a single poplar board with a vertical grain, with a 2.1 cm L-shaped wood strip added along the left and bottom edges, and a 5.1 cm square insert at the lower right.[1] The dimensions of the original panel are 60.4 x 46.9 cm. The frame hides the added strip. A thin chalk and lead white ground covers the surface.[2] A preliminary sketch in black paint is visible under the features.

The paint was applied fluidly in the background and figure, with slight impasto in the chain and collar. The X-radiographs show changes in the design, some of which are visible with the naked eye. The white collar and dark neckline were originally lower, exposing more of the neck. The dress was slightly fuller, as were the chin and cheek profile. The paint is in good condition, with little inpainting or abrasion.

The date of cradling is not known, nor is the date of the attachment of the L-shaped strip. The painting was cleaned in 1930 by Herbert Carmer. In 1976 the painting was treated again to remove discolored varnish. A lower varnish layer was left in place, along with a hardened, pigmented varnish layer on the dress.

 

[1] Dendrochronology cannot be used to date poplar panels (see report by Dr. Joseph Bauch, Universität Hamburg, dated November 29, 1977, in NGA Conservation files).

[2] The paint and ground layers were analyzed by Dr. Robert Feller at the Carnegie Mellon Institute of Research using polarized light microscopy and cross-sections (see memos and letters of various dates in 1976 and 1977 in NGA Conservation files).

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