pen and brown ink; framing line in brown ink
h 142 mm × w 149 mm
pen and brown ink; framing line in brown ink
h 142 mm × w 149 mm
inscribed on verso (with the sheet turned 90°): upper left, in pencil, 10; lower left, in pencil, illegible; lower right, in brown ink, Rembrant[...]
stamped on mount, on verso: lower right, with the mark of the museum (L. 2228)
Light foxing throughout
...; purchased from the dealer P. Roblin (?1853-1908), Paris, with five other drawings, by Dr Cornelis Hofstede de Groot (1863-1930), The Hague, 1901;1 by whom donated to the museum, 1906, but kept in usufruct; transferred to the museum (L. 2228), 1930
Object number: RP-T-1930-32(R)
Credit line: Gift of C. Hofstede de Groot, The Hague
Copyright: Public domain
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Leiden 1606 - Amsterdam 1669)
After attending Latin school in his native Leiden, Rembrandt, the son of a miller, enrolled at Leiden University in 1620, but soon abandoned his studies to become an artist. He first trained (1621-23) under the Leiden painter Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburg (c. 1571-1638), followed by six months with the Amsterdam history painter Pieter Lastman (c. 1583-1633). Returning to Leiden around 1624, he shared a studio with Jan Lievens, where he aimed to establish himself as a history painter, winning the admiration of the poet and courtier Constantijn Huygens. In 1628 Gerard Dou (1613-75) became his first pupil. In the autumn of 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, where his career rapidly took off. Three years later he joined the Guild of St Luke and married Saskia Uylenburgh (1612-42), niece of the art dealer Hendrik Uylenburgh (c. 1587-1661), in whose house he had been living and working. She died shortly after giving birth to their son Titus, by which time Rembrandt was already in financial straits owing to excessive spending on paintings, prints, antiquities and studio props for his history pieces. After Saskia’s death, Rembrandt lived first with Titus's wet nurse, Geertje Dircx (who eventually sued Rembrandt for breach of promise and was later imprisoned for her increasingly unstable behaviour), and then with his later housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoffels (by whom he had a daughter, Cornelia). Mounting debts made him unable to meet the payments of his house on the Jodenbreestraat and forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656 and to sell his house and art collection. In the last decade of his life, he, Hendrickje and Titus resided in more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht, but Rembrandt continued to be dogged by continuing financial difficulties. His beloved Titus died in 1668. Rembrandt survived him by only a year and was buried in the Westerkerk.
In the sketch on the recto, Rembrandt tried to capture the action of a man mounting a horse, but he does not seem to have found a clear solution. The right arm and the right leg were each drawn in two or three alternative positions. The changes were added in dark broad lines over a lighter sketch, so that the new version would be clearly differentiated from the first attempt. This is especially evident in the broad stroke drawn over the somewhat lame-looking horse’s back leg.
This searching for a suitable pose probably indicates that Rembrandt did not work from a live model but instead from memory; he also did not start with a preconceived idea of how the image should look, but tried to achieve his goal while drawing. The sketch has been connected with the rider in the foreground of Rembrandt’s grisaille painting of The Concord of the State in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (inv. no. 1717 (OK)).2 In this painting, the movement of the rider was convincingly conveyed. The pose of the horse and the placement of the figures are the same in both works, but the sketch was not actually used as a model and should be viewed more as an exercise. If the drawing were intended to be a first idea for the horse and rider in the painting, the main thing Rembrandt learned from making it was how not to do it. The Concord of the State was painted in 1640 or 1641, and the style of the drawing corresponds to other drawings from the same period, for example The Entombment (inv. no. RP-T-1930-28(R)).
The verso represents a rider with a plumed hat mounted on a horse (fig. a, inv. no. RP-T-1930-32(V)). Only the head and neck of the horse are drawn. Compared to the handling of the recto, the pen lines are less accurate. The man’s neck, for example, is rather stiffly drawn, and most of the shapes are indicated only with light strokes. The drawing was not built up in stages, like the drawing on the recto, and it also has less contrast. The motif is probably a copy or a free variant by another hand of a drawing by Rembrandt related to the etching of the Baptism of the Eunuch of 1641 (e.g. inv. no. RP-P-1961-1043).3
It is not completely coincidental that the sketch on the recto and the original prototype on which the sketch on the verso was based both date from about the same period, circa 1640-41. The presence of a probable copy on the verso could be explained as follows: when Rembrandt’s studio estate eventually came into the hands of dealers, it was often drastically altered to make it more attractive for sale. In this case, the sketch on the front of a man helping a rider mount a horse was not considered sufficiently appealing, so a drawing in Rembrandt’s style based on a drawing from a related series was probably added to the verso. Rembrandt originally kept drawings in albums according to subject and type, and they remained in these groupings until the eighteenth century.4 Even in the second half of the twentieth century, the rider with quiver was considered to be the recto, until the autograph sketch was prioritized as the recto and the copy relegated to be the verso.
Peter Schatborn, 2017
C. Hofstede de Groot, Die Handzeichnungen Rembrandts, Haarlem 1906, no. 1278 (c. 1641); W.R. Valentiner, Rembrandt: Die Meisters Handzeichnungen, 2 vols., Stuttgart and elsewhere 1925-34, II (1934), no. 793 (c. 1633-35); M.D. Henkel, Catalogus van de Nederlandsche teekeningen in het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam, I: Teekeningen van Rembrandt en zijn school, coll. cat. The Hague 1942, nos. 7-8 (c. 1632); Benesch 1973, no. 363 (c. 1637); P. Schatborn, Catalogus van de Nederlandse tekeningen in het Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, IV: Tekeningen van Rembrandt, zijn onbekende leerlingen en navolgers/Drawings by Rembrandt, his Anonymous Pupils and Followers, coll. cat. The Hague 1985, no. 20, with earlier literature; M. Schapelhouman, Rembrandt and the Art of Drawing, Amsterdam 2006, pp. 79-80, fig. 74 (recto); M. Royalton-Kisch, The Drawings of Rembrandt: A Revision of Otto Benesch’s Catalogue Raisonné (online, no. 363