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 and members of his workshop frequently painted tronies, informal bust-length figure studies that were not considered to be portraits. The large number of such studies that have survived from Rembrandt's workshop indicates that the creation of tronies was one way by which the master taught his manner of painting. In this small tronie, an old woman stares out from under a white headpiece, her black cape fastened at the neck. Rembrandt's paintings of old women from the mid-1650s served as models for the student who created this particular panel. Abraham van Dijck (1635/1636–1672), who seems to have studied with Rembrandt in the early 1650s, is the most likely artist of this painting. The same model appears in several other of Van Dijck’s works, in particular his The Old Prophetess, c. 1655–1660, now in the Hermitage.
Informal bust-length figure studies, called tronies in the seventeenth century, were frequently painted by Rembrandt and members of his workshop.
Several of these appear in the 1656 inventory of Rembrandt’s collection. See Walter L. Strauss and Marjon van der Meulen, The Rembrandt Documents (New York, 1979), 349–388, especially nos. 105, 115, 118, and 294.
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 attribution of this painting to Rembrandt dates to at least 1765, when it was engraved in reverse by J. H. Bause. At that time it and a male pendant were in the Gottfried Winkler Collection in Leipzig.
Although the painting is described as being in the Gottfried Winkler Collection in Leipzig, Bause, for some reason, dedicated his print to Johann Jacob Haid of Augsburg. See this object, Provenance note 1.
Handwritten notes by Edith Standen (Widener’s secretary for art), from the Widener Collection records, in NGA curatorial files.
Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art [Commemorating the Tercentenary of the Artist's Death] (Washington, 1969), no. 18.
Stechow’s verbal comments were recorded by Edith Standen (Widener’s secretary for art) in her notes (in NGA curatorial files).
Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, revised by Horst Gerson (London, 1969), 581, no. 392.
While the signature and date, 1657, differ markedly from Rembrandt’s own, there is no technical evidence that they were applied after the execution of the painting. In any event, it would appear that the sketch was executed in the latter half of the 1650s. Dendrochronological examination [see
A method of dating wood by examining the annual growth rings.
See Br. 383 from the Pushkin Museum, Moscow; and Br. 381 from the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg. An earlier prototype that might also have been influential is Rembrandt’s etching Sick Woman with a Large White Head-dress, c. 1640–1641 (B. 359).
The old woman depicted in this painting also appears in a number of works by Abraham van Dijck (1635/1636–1672), in particular his The Old Prophetess, c. 1655–1660, now in the Hermitage.
Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 5 vols. (Landau in der Pfalz, 1983), 1:671, no. 367. Van Dijck was probably a pupil of Rembrandt’s in the early 1650s, although nothing definite is known about the exact period of his apprenticeship. Sumowski dates the Hermitage painting 1655/1660 on the basis of comparisons with Van Dijck’s few dated works. The same model appears frequently in his oeuvre: see Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 5 vols. (Landau in der Pfalz, 1983), 1: nos. 370, 372, 375, 377. An oil sketch on panel (23.8 x 20 cm) representing the same model in a similar headpiece was in a private collection in Ontario in 1973 (photograph in NGA curatorial files).
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
center left by a later hand: Rembrandt / f.1657
Probably H. Verschuring, The Hague, by 1751. Gottfried Winkler [1731-1795], Leipzig, by 1765. Possibly with (Stéphane Bourgeois [Bourgeois Frères], Paris), in 1893/1894. Rodolphe Kann [1845-1905], Paris, by 1898; 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.
- Rembrandt: schilderijen bijeengebracht ter gelegenheid van de inhuldiging van Hare Majesteit Koningin Wilhelmina, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1898, no. 100.
- Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art [Commemorating the Tercentenary of the Artist's Death], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, no. 8, repro., as by Rembrandt.
The support is a single, uncradled oak board with a vertical grain, cut from a tree felled between 1637 and 1643. A vertical split caused a dislevel in the panel at the top edge in the center. A small, 1.3 x 0.5 cm, loss of paint and ground layers occurred there when the wood surface was mechanically planed. The left and right edges appear to have been planed, slightly reducing the panel’s horizontal dimensions.
A thin, smooth, white ground layer covering the panel lies under a reddish brown locally applied layer. This layer, which must have been left as a reserve for the woman’s robe, is still visible in that area. The paint was applied freely with very loose brushwork, considerable impasto, and rapid scumbles. The paint was worked wet-into-wet in rapid succession, with the face painted first, followed by the background. Small losses are found in the dark background at the right and along the edges, and mild abrasion has occurred in the thin, dark passages. The painting was treated in 1992 to remove discolored varnish and inpainting. At that time overpaint removed from the dark right background revealed a pentimento in the placement of the woman’s shoulder.
 Dendrochronology was performed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see report dated September 28, 1987, in NGA Conservation department files).
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752: 2:482.
- Kreuchauf, Franz Wilhelm. Historische Erklaerungen der Gemaelde welche Herr Gottfried Winkler in Leipzig gesammelt. Leipzig, 1768: 201, no. 495.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 7(1836):182, no. 572.
- Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps. Paris, 1893: 563.
- Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. 2 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. New York, 1894: 2:238.
- Bode, Wilhelm von, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. 8 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. Paris, 1897-1906: 6:26, 176, no. 472, repro., 8: 377.
- Hofstede de Groot, Comelis. Rembrandt: Collection des oeuvres du maître réunies, à l’occasion de l’inauguration de S. M. la Reine Wilhelmine. Exh. cat. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1898: no. 100.
- Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899: 82, 158.
- Bode, Wilhelm von. Gemälde-sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900: no. 6, repro.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart, 1904: 210, repro.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906: repro. 320.
- Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn. The great masters in painting and sculpture. London, 1907: 78, 136.
- 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):255, 258, nos. 508, 518.
- 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):224, 227, no. 508.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. New York, 1907: 320, repro.
- Sedelmeyer, Charles. Catalogue of Rodolphe Kann Collection. 2 vols. Paris, 1907: 1:iv, 76, no. 75, repro.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 3rd ed. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1908: repro. 440.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1909: repro. 440.
- 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, no. 36, repro., as by Rembrandt van Rijn.
- 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. 440.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. The Art of the Low Countries. Translated by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer. Garden City, NY, 1914: 248, no. 74.
- Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Classics in Art 2. 3rd ed. New York, 1921: 440, repro.
- Meldrum, David S. Rembrandt’s Painting, with an Essay on His Life and Work. New York, 1923: 201, no. 383A.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as by Rembrandt.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 52, repro., as by Rembrandt.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931: no. 131, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen. Vienna, 1935: no. 392, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Schilderijen, 630 Afbeeldingen. Utrecht, 1935: no. 392, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. New York, 1936: no. 392, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. 2 vols. Translated by John Byam Shaw. Oxford, 1942: 1:no. 392; 2: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: 42, 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., as by Rembrandt.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 313, repro., as by Rembrandt van Rijn.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 110, as by Rembrandt.
- Bauch, Kurt. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966: 15, no. 273, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 98, repro.
- Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Revised by Horst Gerson. 3rd ed. London, 1969: repro. 301, 581, no. 392.
- 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: 18, no. 8, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 288, repro., as by Rembrandt.
- Fowles, Edward. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976: 52, 205.
- Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 2:482.
- 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: 330-333, color repro. 331.
- 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. 9.
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