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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Rembrandt van Rijn/A Polish Nobleman/1637,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/85 (accessed September 15, 2014).

 

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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. He received many commissions for portraits and attracted a number of students who came to learn his method of painting.

A Polish Nobleman is probably not a portrait of a specific individual; instead it represents a more generic exotic type that Rembrandt favored during the 1630s. The beaver hat, dark fur cloak, and massive gold chain and medallion have suggested to many that the sitter was Slavic, but the painting's title has no factual basis. Such exotic paintings allowed Rembrandt to expand the limits of portraiture because he was not constrained by traditional conventions. Through dramatic accents of light and dark on the sitter's face, bold brushwork, and dense application of paint, Rembrandt created a powerful, almost sculptural presence. By emphasizing the man’s furrowed brow and by shading his eyes, Rembrandt has portrayed him as a thoughtful individual. The penetrating expression of A Polish Nobleman and the striking resemblance of the sitter’s features to Rembrandt’s, particularly in the area around the eyes and nose, make one wonder if this painting is not, in fact, a fanciful and liberally embellished self-portrait.

Entry

One of Rembrandt’s most powerfully evocative paintings from the late 1630s, A Polish Nobleman displays a richness of conception and technique that is unmatched by any other painting by the master in the Gallery’s collection. As this imposing figure stares out beneath his tall beaver hat, he at once confronts the viewer with directness and draws him in with his introspective gaze. His confident stance as he grasps a gold-topped wooden staff, his broad mustache, and the gold chain and pendant that hang over the broad fur collar that covers his jacket give him an air of authority and exotic grandeur. At the same time, the shaded eyes, furrowed brow, and partially opened mouth suggest a caring and thoughtful individual, far more approachable than the pose and costume would initially imply.

Largely because of the individualized character of the sitter, but also because of the obvious care with which Rembrandt modeled the forms, scholars have since the nineteenth century sought to identify this sitter with a specific individual, despite the fact that no suggested identifications are given in the earlier eighteenth century references to the painting. The earliest, and most persistent, of these identifications is the one mentioned by John Smith in 1836: Jan III Sobieski (1629–1696), who was king of Poland from 1674 until his death.[1] Since Sobieski was only eight years old in 1637, such an identification is clearly impossible. Stefan Batory, the other Polish king whose name was mentioned in the nineteenth century in connection with this painting, is likewise mistaken, for he died in 1586.[2]

A more recent proposal that the figure represents the Polish nobleman Andrzej Rej would seem to have more merit.[3] Rej, who was well traveled, well educated, and well bred, had a close and cordial relationship to the royal court in Poland. As one of the most influential and trusted Protestants in the country, he was chosen by King Wladyslaw in 1637 to act as a special envoy to England and to the Netherlands at a time when relations between Poland and these countries were rather frosty.[4] His diplomatic ventures, first in England, where Charles I would not even receive him, and then in the Netherlands, were not successful. After leaving The Hague on December 19, 1637, he seems to have traveled to Amsterdam where his son, Mikolaj, was enrolled as a student at the Amsterdam “Athenaeum Illustre.” Although Rej must not have stayed long—he was documented in Hamburg by January 19, 1638—he did take time to have his portrait painted. In a document from 1641, Mikolaj acknowledges that he owes Hendrik van Uylenburgh fifty guilders “for portraying my father.”[5]

The coincidence of Rej’s presence in Amsterdam in 1637 and Rembrandt’s portrait of a Polish nobleman of that date would lead one to hypothesize a connection even if a document did not exist confirming that a portrait was in fact painted. Since Hendrik van Uylenburgh, who was of Polish descent, had had a business connection with Rembrandt in the early 1630s, one might assume that Van Uylenburgh would have arranged for Rembrandt to paint a portrait of Andrzej Rej. Nevertheless, the evidence is not compelling enough to make a convincing connection. To begin with, Rembrandt is not mentioned in the document. Secondly, the price for the portrait would have been extremely low for such a large-scale, fully worked-out painting of this date by the master.[6] Moreover, despite their earlier business relations, it is unlikely that in 1637 Van Uylenburgh was actively procuring commissions for Rembrandt or administering his financial affairs. Finally, the costume is not one that a Polish nobleman on an official diplomatic mission would have worn at that time. Although the elements of the costume are essentially Polish, they had been in fashion some twenty years earlier.[7]

Rather than depicting a specific individual, A Polish Nobleman is very likely part of the same tradition of fanciful portraits of figures in oriental costumes to which Man in Oriental Costume belongs (for a discussion of this type of portraiture see the entry on Man in Oriental Costume).[8] The models for such paintings seem to have been people close to Rembrandt, among them his wife, Saskia, his mother, possibly his father, and his brother Adriaen.[9] Rembrandt also used himself as a model for figures in his etchings and paintings. Quite frequently he radically changed his appearance with different hairstyles, beards, and mustaches. The penetrating expression of A Polish Nobleman and the striking resemblance of the sitter’s features to Rembrandt’s, particularly in the area around the eyes and nose, make one wonder if this painting is not, in fact, a fanciful self-portrait. The main objection to this hypothesis is that Rembrandt had not yet developed such a jowled countenance at this date. However, X-radiography clearly indicates that the pronounced jowls were not part of the initial concept but were an adaptation done when Rembrandt altered the right contour of the face [fig. 1].[10] At that time he also eliminated the earlobe and a pearl earring.[11]

The extraordinary power of A Polish Nobleman, which is painted on a single, large oak panel, is all the more enhanced because it has been so well preserved. Rich impastos on the face, which can be seen in the photograph of the painting taken in a raking light [fig. 2], reinforce the three-dimensional presence of the image. Similar impastos accent the gold medallion falling over his shoulder. The brown collar and reddish brown sleeve of the jacket, however, are painted thinly to suggest the softer textures of fur and cloth. In these areas the ocher ground, which is allowed to show through the surface paint, provides a unifying tone. Rembrandt has consciously sought to reveal this tone by wiping his wet paint with a cloth or, as in the beaver hat, by scratching the surface with the butt end of his brush. Even the background, which because of the painted crack must represent a wall, has been carefully modeled. Since the restoration of the painting, the care with which Rembrandt modulated his paints over the entire surface is once again visible. Indeed, he even left a thumbprint along the lower edge.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

upper right: Rembrandt.f:. / 1637

  • Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Harman van Swol; possibly (his sale, Jan Pietersz. Zomer, Amsterdam, 20 April 1707, no. 15).[1] Acquired 1765 in Rotterdam by (Philippus Florentinus Vergeloo, Antwerp) for Count Johan Carl Philipp Cobenzl [1712-1770]; sold 1768 to Catherine II, empress of Russia [1729-1796], Saint Petersburg;[2] Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg; sold February 1931 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

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. 3, 13, repro.

Bibliography

1773
Imperial Hermitage Museum [probably Ernst von Münnich, ed.] "Catalogue raisonné des tableaux qui se trouvent dans les Galeries, Sallons et Cabinets du Palais Impérial de S. Pétersbourg, commencé en 1773 et continué jusqu’en 1785.” 3 vols. Manuscript, Fund 1, Opis’ VI-A, delo 85, Hermitage Archives, Saint Petersburg,1773-1783 (vols. 1-2), 1785 (vol. 3).
1774
Imperial Hermitage Museum [probably Ernst von Münnich, ed.]. Catalogue des tableaux qui se trouvent dans les Cabinets du Palais Impérial à Saint-Pétersbourg. Based on the 1773 manuscript catalogue. Saint Petersburg, 1774: no. 44, as Portrait d'un Turc..
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Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps. Paris, 1893: 215-216, repro.
1894
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Michel, Émile. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: A Memorial of His Tercentenary. New York, 1906: 46, repro.
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1906
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 2(1910):409.
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Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn. The great masters in painting and sculpture. London, 1907: 65, repro. opp. 66, 150.
1907
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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):165, no. 271.
1907
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. New York, 1907: 166, repro.
1908
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 3rd ed. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1908: repro. 216, 556.
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Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1909: repro. 102, 269.
1909
Wrangell, Baron Nicolas. Les Chefs-d’Oeuvre de la Galérie de Tableaux de l’Ermitage Impérial à St. Pétersbourg. London, 1909: xxix, 111, repro.
1911
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Fritz Knapp. Meisterwerke der Malerei: Alte Meister. Berlin, 1911: unpaginated, repro.
1912
Réau, Louis. "La galerie de tableaux de l'Ermitage et la collection Semenov. 2: Ecoles de Nord." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 8 (December 1912): 478, repro.
1913
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. 2nd ed. New York, 1913: repro. 216.
1921
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Classics in Art 2. 3rd ed. New York, 1921: 216, repro.
1922
Neumann, Carl. Rembrandt. 2 vols. Revised ed. Munich, 1922: 2:414-415, repro.
1923
Meldrum, David S. Rembrandt’s Painting, with an Essay on His Life and Work. New York, 1923: 190, pl. 119.
1923
Weiner, Peter Paul von. Meisterwerke der Gemäldesammlung in der Eremitage zu Petrograd. Revised ed. Munich, 1923: repro.
1924
Knackfuss, Hermann. Rembrandt. Künstler-Monographien. Leipzig, 1924: 62, pl. 60.
1926
Hymans, Henri. L'Art dans les Pays-Bas, son evolution, son influence. Brussels, 1926: no. 47, repro.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen. Vienna, 1935: no. 211, repro.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Schilderijen, 630 Afbeeldingen. Utrecht, 1935: no. no. 211, repro.
1936
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. New York, 1936: no. 211, repro.
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 38-39.
1937
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "The Mellon Gift to the Nation." Art News 35 (9 January 1937): 9.
1937
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "The Mellon Gift to the Nation." Art News 35 (9 January 1937): repro.
1941
Held, Julius S. "Masters of Northern Europe, 1430-1660, in the National Gallery." Art News 40, no. 8 (June 1941): 13, repro.
1941
National Gallery of Art. Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941: 166, no. 78, pl. IX.
1941
"World Masterpieces Lend Supreme Distinction to National Gallery of Art." The Washington Star (16 March 1941): F6.
1942
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. 2 vols. Translated by John Byam Shaw. Oxford, 1942: 1:12, no. 211, repro.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 78, repro. 31, 240.
1943
Benesch, Otto. "The Rembrandt Paintings in the National Gallery of Art." The Art Quarterly 6, no. 1 (Winter 1943): 20 fig. 1, 25.
1948
Rosenberg, Jakob. Rembrandt. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA, 1948: 1:43, fig. 59.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 80, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 96, color repro.
1960
Bauch, Kurt. Der frühe Rembrandt und seine Zeit: Studien zur geschichtlichten Bedeutung seines Frühstils. Berlin, 1960: 168-169, fig. 147.
1961
Descargues, Pierre. The Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. New York, 1961: 32-33, repro.
1963
Odlozilik, Otaker. "Rembrandt’s Polish Nobleman." Polish Review 7 (Autumn 1963): 3-32, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 312, repro.
1964
Rosenberg, Jakob. Rembrandt: Life and Work. Revised ed. Greenwich, Connecticut, 1964: 70-71, fig. 59.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 109.
1966
Bauch, Kurt. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966: 10, no. 174, repro.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 220, color repro.
1968
Gerson, Horst. Rembrandt Paintings. Amsterdam, 1968: 56, 495, 298, 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: repro. 170, 565, no. 211.
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: 7, 13, no. 3, repro.
1970
Benesch, Otto. Otto Benesch Collected Writings. 2 vols. Edited by Eva Benesch. London and New York, 1970: 1:140-146, fig. 108.
1974
Broos, Ben P. J. "Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Pole and His Horse." Simiolus 7, no. 4 (1974): 192-218, fig. 19.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 286, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 273, no. 359, color repro.
1977
Bolten, J., and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Translated by Danielle Adkinson. Milan and Chicago, 1977: 186, no. 264, repro.
1981
Chroscicki, Juliusz. A. "Rembrandt’s Polish Rider: Allegory or Portrait?" in Ars Auro Prior: Studia Ioanni Bialostocki Sexagenario Dicta. Warsaw, 1981: 441-448.
1984
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: Zijn leven, zijn schilderijen. Maarssen, 1984: 200, no. 219, color repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 273, no. 353, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 12, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 330, repro.
1985
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: His Life, His Paintings. New York, 1985: 200, no. 219, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt: das Bild des Menschen. Translated by Renate Renner. Stuttgart, 1986: 311, no. 366, color repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt, the human form and spirit. Translated by Suzanne Boorsch et al. New York, 1986: no. 366, repro.
1986
Hermesdorf, P. F. J. M., Ernst van de Wetering, and Jeroen Giltaij. "Enkele nieuwe gegevens over Rembrandts ‘De Eendracht van het Land'." Oud Holland 100 (1986): 38-39, 48.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 312.
1986
Tümpel, Christian. Rembrandt. Translated by Jacques and Jean Duvernet, Léon Karlson, and Patrick Grilli. Paris, 1986: repro. 197, 406, no. 137.
1988
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "The Art Historian in the Laboratory: Examinations into the History, Preservation, and Techniques of 17th Century Dutch Painting." In The Age of Rembrandt : studies in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Papers in art history from the Pennsylvania State University 3. Edited by Roland E. Fleischer and Susan Scott Munshower. University Park, PA, 1988: 221; 245, fig. 9-28.
1989
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1990
Le Bihan, Olivier. L'Or & l'Ombre: catalogue critique et raisonné des peintures hollandaises du dix-septième et du dix-huitième siècles, conservées au Musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux. Bordeaux, 1990: 362, no. C13.
1990
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1991
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1991
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1991
Le Bihan, Olivier. L'or & l'ombre. Bordeaux, 1991: 362.
1992
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1995
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1997
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2006
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2006
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2008
Hirschfelder, Dagmar. Tronie und Porträt in der niederländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 2008: 124, pl. 91, no. 430, repro.
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, D.C., 2009: 90, 104 n. 47, 135 n. 62.
2009
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2011
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):307.
2012
Percival, Melissa. Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination. Burlington, Vt., 2012: x, 60, 61, fig. 2.10

Technical Summary

The panel is composed of a single piece of oak with a vertical grain and has been cradled. Dendrochronology dates the tree felling to about 1633.[1] Old repaired vertical splits are found at top center and bottom left. Moderate-sized losses of splintered wood have occurred in the panel edges.

The ground consists of two layers, a lower white layer of medium thickness covered by a very thin ocher layer.[2] A rich paste paint layer of moderate thickness has been applied with a dry brush producing a highly textured surface, with thick impasted accents on the jewels and staff. The tan ground layer is visible between the broad, opaque brushmarks and is incorporated into the structure of the cloak. Individual fur hairs have been rapidly painted with a broad, fanned-out brush. The fur hat has been incised with the butt end of a brush to expose the ground layer. Glazing is minimal, employed chiefly in the dark shadows of the face and hand.

Several pentimenti are visible with the naked eye and in the X-radiographs. Slight color variations in the background to the sitter’s right were occasioned by the artist’s repainting of the facial contour to slim the profile. The X-radiographs confirm alterations as well that reshape the lower portion of the head and show that the thumb was once inclined downward at a sharper angle and the index finger was more tightly curved. This original position of the hand corresponds to the grip necessary to hold the staff in its initial position, inclined away from the sitter, as evidenced by a reserve left in the background. Once adjusted to its more upright position, the staff was longer than it now appears. Its earlier form is visible through the gray covering paint of the background. A pearl drop, which once hung from the hat jewel, and a pearl earring attached to the proper left earlobe were both painted out.

The paint layer is in excellent condition, with minimal abrasion and only minor losses in the face and around the edges. A conservation treatment was carried out in 1985 to remove an aged varnish as well as discolored inpainting and overpaint.

 

[1] Dendrochronological examination by Dr. Joseph Bauch of Universität Hamburg in 1977 has determined that the wood comes from a tree felled around 1633 (see report dated November 29, 1977, in NGA Conservation files). Panels from the same tree were used for two other paintings by Rembrandt at the end of the 1630s, the Concord of State (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) and River Landscape with a Windmill (Staatliche Kuntsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, Kassel). See Dr. Peter Klein letter, dated September 25, 1987, in NGA curatorial files.

[2] The pigments and media were analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department using polarized light microscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), and cross-sections in conjunction with stains (see reports on dated December 1984 and February 25, 1985, in NGA Conservation files).

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A Polish Nobleman
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 1] Detail, X-radiograph composite, Rembrandt van Rijn, A Polish Nobleman, 1637, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.78
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  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 2] Detail of face, raking light, Rembrandt van Rijn, A Polish Nobleman, 1637, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.78
  • [1]

    John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, 9 vols. (London, 1829–1842), 7:310: “A Military Gentleman, styled ‘Sobieski.’” Although the tradition was already questioned in Livret de la Galerie Impérial de l'Ermitage de Saint-Pétersbourg (Saint Petersburg, 1838; “n’est justificée par aucun des documents que nous avons à notre déposition”), the identification continued to be proposed as an option throughout most of the nineteenth century.

  • [2]

    Wilhelm von Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei (Braunschweig, 1883), 464.

  • [3]

    First proposed by Otaker Odlozilik, “Rembrandt’s Polish Nobleman,” Polish Review 7 (Autumn 1963): 3–32. This identification was supported by Ben P. J. Broos, “Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Pole and His Horse,” Simiolus 7, no. 4 (1974): 210–213.

  • [4]

    King Wladyslaw had just gone back on his highly controversial plan to marry the niece of Charles I of England. The niece was Elizabeth, daughter of Frederick V, king of Bohemia and elector of the Palatinate, and his consort Elizabeth Stuart. The king and queen of Bohemia, the so-called Winter King and Winter Queen, were also intimates with the Prince of Orange, Frederik Hendrik, and his wife, Amalia van Solms. Not only was Frederik Hendrik the uncle of Frederick V, but when the Bohemian king and queen had come to The Hague in exile in the 1620s, Amalia van Solms came with them as one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting.

  • [5]

    Ben P. J. Broos, “Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Pole and His Horse,” Simiolus 7, no. 4 (1974): 213, note 49. The document was published by Abraham Bredius, Künstler-Inventare . . . , 8 vols. (The Hague, 1915–1922), 5:1688.

  • [6]

    As Henriette Rahusen has noted (oral communication), however, the fifty guilders that Mikolaj Rej owed on the painting in 1641 may not represent the full price, but rather the balance remaining from the original commission.

  • [7]

    I am indebted for this information to Dr. Julius Chroscicki, from the University of Warsaw, who, as a fellow at the NGA Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, studied the problem of Rembrandt’s depictions of Polish subjects.

  • [8]

    Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 3, 1635–1642, ed. Josua Bruyn et al. (Dordrecht, Boston, and London, 1989), 247, considers this work a tronie, a term that seems inappropriate for such a large, fully conceived three-quarter-length figure. Although the meaning of the term as used in the seventeenth century is not clear, it seems most probable that tronies were bust-length studies of heads rather than finished paintings. The prices paid for tronies were quite low, as noted in Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 3, 1635–1642, ed. Josua Bruyn et al. (Dordrecht, Boston, and London, 1989), 23, “a relatively cheap product.”  See also Dagmar Hirschfelder, Tronie und Porträt in der niederländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 2008), cat. 430.

  • [9]

    Kurt Bauch, Der frühe Rembrandt und seine Zeit: Studien zur geschichtlichten Bedeutung seines Frühstils (Berlin, 1960), 168, suggested that Adriaen van Rijn was the model for A Polish Nobleman. No identifiable portraits of Adriaen, however, are known.

  • [10]

    The connections to Rembrandt’s own physiognomy in the original concept for the portrait are particularly evident in a comparison of the X-radiographs with those of other Rembrandt self-portraits from the late 1630s. See in particular the X-radiographs of Bust of Rembrandt with an Architectural Background, Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. 1746, reproduced in Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 3, 1635–1642, ed. Josua Bruyn et al. (Dordrecht, Boston, and London, 1989), 499.

  • [11]

    A few other minor changes, such as those on the staff and the gold medallion on the hat, are evident in the X-radiograph and upon close observation of the painting itself.