Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan

Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 39 3/4 in. (125.7 x 101 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Helen Swift Neilson, 1943
Accession Number:
Not on view
This animated portrait has a pendant showing the sitter’s husband rising from a chair (Taft Museum, Cincinnati). When seen together, husband and wife seem to respond to each other, making these among Rembrandt's most inventive compositions of the early 1630s. Rembrandt's early experience as a painter of dramatic history scenes and his close study of physiognomy and character during the time he spent in Leiden prepared him to be the most original and successful portraitist in Amsterdam, where he arrived in the winter of 1631–32.
This large portrait of a vivacious young woman is the pendant to the Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair in the Taft Museum, Cincinnati, which is signed and dated 1633; together they are two of the boldest formal portraits by any Dutch artist of the period. The paintings were separated before 1793, when this work appeared alone in the Paris estate sale of Vincent Donjeux. That the portraits were painted as a pair is not proven by known documents, but can hardly be doubted. The canvases are the same size and were probably cut from the same bolt of cloth; they are also entirely consistent in style and complementary in composition, and in the pictorial effect of such motifs as lace collars and cuffs, and conspicuous ribbons.

The pendants may be considered key works within Rembrandt's development as a portraitist during his first few years in Amsterdam, from about 1632–34. During this time, the artist drew upon his earlier experience as a history painter, and on the latest innovations in portraiture by Amsterdam artists Thomas de Keyser (1596/97–1667; see MMA 64.65.4) and Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy (1588–1650/56; see MMA 1976.100.22) in order to lend dramatic focus and psychological intensity to the potentially routine task of recording human likenesses. In Holland, the design of single and, especially, pair portraits had remained conservative through the 1620s, influenced by the heritage of Spanish court portraiture and formal models from England. In the Van Beresteyn portraits of 1632 (MMA 29.100.3, 29.100.4), Rembrandt was clearly working for a client who preferred the traditional approach. By contrast, this work and its pendant in Cincinnati represent his stringest departure from the conservative norm.

Rembrandt's experiments in this vein were partly inspired by the Flemish painter and international court portraitist Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), but more immediate precedents are found in his own work. The woman's pose in the MMA canvas may be compared with that of the uppermost figure in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Mauritshuis, The Hague), and also recalls that of the troubled potentate in Rembrandt's David Playing the Harp to Saul (Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt) of about 1629–30.

The correspondence between the costume and hairdo in this portrait and that in Rembrandt's half-length Portrait of a Young Woman (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), also dated 1633, is exceptionally close, and the sitters' faces are very similar. It appears possible that Rembrandt painted two quite different portraits of this woman, or of the same couple (if a half-length male portrait is missing), possibly for the man and wife and for his or her parents.

A gold watch and key, hung on chains, gleam against the black silk of the woman's skirt. Timepieces usually refer to mortality or temperance in Dutch portraits. Here the object is also a luxury item, and perhaps another echo of the male portrait, where gold aglets dangle at the waist.

[2012; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Rembrandt·ft: / 1633
George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, Petworth House, Sussex (by 1822–d. 1837); his nephew, George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont, Petworth House (1837–d. 1845); the 3rd Earl's son, Colonel George Wyndham, later 1st Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1845–d. 1869); Henry Wyndham, 2nd Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1869–d. 1901); Charles Henry Wyndham, 3rd Baron Leconfield, Petworth House (1901–28; cat., 1920, no. 105); [Knoedler, London and New York, 1928; sold to Scott & Fowles]; [Scott & Fowles, New York, 1928–30; sold to Neilson]; Helen Swift (Mrs. Francis) Neilson, Chicago (1930–43)
London. British Institution. 1822, no. 132 (as "Portrait of a Lady," lent by the Earl of Egremont).

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1899, no. 55 (lent by Lord Leconfield).

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Twelve Masterpieces of Painting," April 16–28, 1928, no. 8.

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters: Paintings by Rembrandt," May 2–31, 1930, no. 17 (lent by Mrs. Francis Neilson, Chicago).

Art Institute of Chicago. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings by Rembrandt and His Circle," December 19, 1935–January 19, 1936, no. 3 (lent by Mrs. Francis Neilson, Chicago).

Los Angeles County Museum. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Frans Hals, Rembrandt," November 18–December 31, 1947, no. X.

Art Gallery of Toronto. "Rembrandt," January 12–February 28, 1951, no catalogue?

Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 20.

Tokyo. National Museum of Western Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings and Drawings of the Seventeenth Century," October 19–December 22, 1968, no. 45.

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings and Drawings of the Seventeenth Century," January 11–March 2, 1969, no. 45.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dutch Couples: Pair Portraits by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries," January 23–March 5, 1973, no. 6 (with "Portrait of a Man," Taft Museum, Cincinnati).

Cincinnati. Taft Museum. "Dutch Couples: Rembrandt and His Contemporaries," December 15, 1973–March 3, 1974, unnumbered cat.

Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 21.

Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 21.

Memphis. Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. "Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 1–June 23, 1982, no catalogue?

Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Museum of Art. "Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 28–November 28, 1982, no catalogue?

Hamilton, N.Y. Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 6–April 17, 1983, no. 7.

Rochester, N.Y. Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 3–June 5, 1983, no. 7.

Amarillo, Tex. Amarillo Art Center. "Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 22–July 31, 1983, no. 7.

Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age," September 24–November 10, 1985, no. 46.

The Hague. Mauritshuis. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," September 28, 1990–January 13, 1991, no. 52 (as "Potrait of a Sitting Woman").

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," February 16–May 5, 1991, no. 52.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 6.

Kyoto National Museum. "Rembrandt Rembrandt," November 3, 2002–January 13, 2003, no. 19.

Frankfurt. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie. "Rembrandt Rembrandt," February 1–May 11, 2003, no. 17.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 3, p. 41, mentions seeing a female portrait by Rembrandt at Petworth, "hung too high to permit of an opinion, though at that distance giving the impression of being a Ferdinand Bol".

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883, pp. 459, 591, no. 253, dates it about 1640.

Eugène Dutuit. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885, pp. 46, 62, 67, no. 285.

Alfred von Wurzbach. Rembrandt-galerie. Stuttgart, 1886, text vol., no. 217.

Émile Michel. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. English ed. New York, 1894, vol. 2, p. 236.

Wilhelm [von] Bode with the assistance of C. Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. Vol. 2, Paris, 1897, pp. 8–9, 82, no. 101, pl. 101, as painted about 1633; identifies it as the pendant to a male portrait in the Pourtalès collection in Paris (now Taft Museum, Cincinnati).

Malcolm Bell. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899, p. 154.

O. v[on]. Schleinitz. "Die Rembrandt-Ausstellung in der Royal-Academy in London." Kunstchronik, n.s., 10 (January 26, 1899), col. 196.

Herbert F[rederick]. Cook. "Correspondance d'Angleterre: L'exposition Rembrandt à Londres." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 21 (March 1899), p. 256.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906, ill. p. 91.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 552, ill. p. 97.

Alfred von Wurzbach. Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon. Vol. 2, Vienna, 1910, p. 403.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 6, London, 1916, pp. 346, 403, no. 881, as "possibly" the pendant to the Pourtalès [Taft] portrait.

C. H. Collins Baker. Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures in the Possession of Lord Leconfield. London, 1920, p. 101, no. 105, ill. opp. p. 100.

D. S. Meldrum. Rembrandt's Paintings. London, 1923, pp. 51, 72, 189, pl. LXXXIX.

C. H[ussey]. "The Petworth Collection of Pictures—I." Country Life 58 (December 5, 1925), p. 903 [reprinted in "Petworth House, Sussex: The Seat of Lord Leconfield," London, 1926, p. 40].

Tancred Borenius. "A Loan Exhibition in New York." Apollo 7 (1928), p. 213, ill. p. 214.

A. H. "Review of Knoedler exhibition." Pantheon 1 (May 1928), p. 270, ill. p. 271.

W. R. Valentiner. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28 (April 26, 1930), p. 4, ill. following p. 4.

Walter Heil. "Die Rembrandt-Ausstellung in Detroit." Pantheon 6 (August 1930), p. 380.

"Rembrandt Sold by Scott & Fowles." Art News 28 (April 12, 1930), p. 1, ill.

"Rembrandt's 'Lady with a Fan' Bought by Mrs. Nielson [sic]." Art News 28 (April 19, 1930), p. 17.

F. Schmidt-Degener in Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Das Unbekannte Meisterwerk. Vol. 1, Berlin, 1930, unpaginated, no. 51, ill.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, no. 35, pl. 35.

A[braham]. Bredius. Rembrandt Gemälde. Vienna, 1935, p. 14, no. 341, pl. 341, notes that there are remains of a date.

Catalogue of the Taft Museum. Cincinnati, 1939, p. 59, under no. 275.

A. J. Barnouw. Dutch Paintings: A Picture Book. New York, 1944, pl. 2.

Harry B. Wehle. "A Fashionable Portrait by Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (February 1944), pp. 177, 180, ill. p. 179.

Josephine L. Allen. "The Museum's Rembrandts." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (November 1945), p. 73.

Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 11 (November 1952), pp. 82, 84.

H. E. van Gelder. Ikonografie van Constantijn Huygens en de Zijnen. The Hague, 1957, p. 36, mentions that J. Q. van Regteren Altena suspected that the Taft portrait depicts Constantijn Huygens; notes that if this is so, its pendant—which he erroneously states is in Chicago—would be the only known portrait of Huygens's wife, Susanna van Baerle.

Masterpieces of Art: In Memory of William R. Valentiner, 1880–1958. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1959, p. 128, under no. 71.

Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966, p. 24, pl. 469.

Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann in Encyclopedia of World Art. Vol. 11, New York, 1966, col. 921.

Horst Gerson. Rembrandt Paintings. Ed. Gary Schwartz. Amsterdam, 1968, p. 494, no. 141, ill. p. 277.

Paolo Lecaldano in L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, p. 100, no. 126, ill. p. 101.

Horst Gerson, ed. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. By A[braham]. Bredius. 3rd ed. London, 1969, pp. 562, 576, no. 341, ill. p. 268.

J. Bolten and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Milan, 1977, p. 180, no. 158, ill.

David Ross Smith. "The Dutch Double and Pair Portrait: Studies in the Imagery of Marriage in the Seventeenth Century." PhD diss., Columbia University, 1978, pp. 271–72, pl. 103.

Walter L. Strauss and Marjon van der Meulen. The Rembrandt Documents. New York, 1979, p. 95.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 322, 336, fig. 578 (color).

David R. Smith. "Rembrandt's Early Double Portraits and the Dutch Conversation Piece." Art Bulletin 64 (June 1982), p. 266 n. 28, pp. 268–69, 273, fig. 18.

Maryan W. Ainsworth et al. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer. New York, 1982, pp. 29, 46, pls. 19–22 (overall, radiograph, and autoradiographs).

David R. Smith. "Rembrandt and the Portrait Tradition." 600 Years of Netherlandish Art. Memphis, 1982, pp. 49–50.

Gary Schwartz. Rembrandt, His Life, His Paintings. New York, 1985, p. 165, fig. 167 (color).

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 60.

Christian Tümpel. Rembrandt: Mythos und Methode. Königstein, 1986, p. 415, no. 232, ill. p. 87 (color).

J[osua]. Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. Vol. 2, 1631–1634. The Hague, 1986, pp. 9–10, 27, 38, 69, 71, 373, 380, 383–91, 420, 557, no. A79, ill. (overall, detail, x-ray, and autoradiographs) and fig. 11 (detail).

Richard N. Kingzett. "A Dutch Treat for Atlanta." Apollo, n.s., 123 (January 1986), p. 19, fig. 1.

Andrew W. Moore. Dutch and Flemish Painting in Norfolk. Exh. cat., Castle Museum, Norwich. London, 1988, pp. 6, 70 n. 21 , suggests that this work and the Taft portrait may have been the paintings described in the diary of Samuel Colby.

Paul Jeromack. "Pickenoy's Complaint." Art & Auction 11 (September 1988), p. 16.

Christopher White. "Dutch and Flemish Painting in Norfolk." Burlington Magazine 130 (December 1988), p. 938.

Walter Liedtke. "Reconstructing Rembrandt: Portraits from the Early Years in Amsterdam (1631–34)." Apollo 129 (May 1989), pp. 328–29, fig. 6.

Ben Broos. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, pp. 125, 377, 379–80, 383–86, no. 52, ill. pp. 377 (detail) and 382 (color), states that the date and signature are not autograph.

Margarita Russell. "Back to the Beginning: Dutch Art from the USA." Apollo 132 (December 1990), p. 416.

Claus Grimm. Rembrandt selbst: Ein Neubewertung seiner Porträtkunst. Stuttgart, 1991, p. 64, figs. 121, 123 (detail).

Ernst van de Wetering in Rembrandt: The Master & His Workshop. Ed. Sally Salvesen. Exh. cat., Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Vol. 1, "Paintings."New Haven, 1991, pp. 98–99, figs. 122 (color), 123, 124 (autoradiograms), 125 (x-radiograph).

Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 131.

Leonard J. Slatkes. Rembrandt: Catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1992, pp. 210–11, no. 119, ill. (color).

J[osua]. Bruyn. Lecture: Rembrandts Werkplaats. Haarlem, 1992, pp. 12–13, fig. 6 .

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 47, 50, 52–55, 81, 107, no. 6, ill. (color).

Walter A. Liedtke in The Taft Museum: Its History and Collections. Vol. 1, European and American Paintings. New York, 1995, pp. 152–54 n. 10, ill.

Hubert von Sonnenburg. Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, "Paintings: Problems and Issues."New York, 1995, pp. 18–19, 24, 44, 83, 87, figs. 13 (autoradiograph), 40 (color detail), 41 (x-radiograph detail).

Karin [M.] Groen. "Halcyon Days for Art History." Shop Talk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive. Ed. Cynthia P. Schneider et al. Cambridge, Mass., 1995, p. 90, figs. 3, 5 (paint cross-section).

B[en]. P. J. Broos in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 26, New York, 1996, pp. 156–57.

Simon Schama. Rembrandt's Eyes. New York, 1999, pp. 376–77, ill. (color).

Emilie E. S. Gordenker. Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) and the Representation of Dress in Seventeenth-century Portraiture. Turnhout, Belgium, 2001, p. 100 n. 27.

Julia Lloyd Williams. Rembrandt's Women. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 2001, pp. 84, 245 n. 16, p. 253 n. 8 to no. 17.

Jeroen Giltaij et al. Rembrandt Rembrandt. Exh. cat., Kyoto National Museum. Kyoto, 2002, pp. 74–75, no. 19, ill. (color) [German ed., Frankfurt, 2003, pp. 13, 94–97, no. 17, ill. (color, overall and detail)].

Anat Gilboa. Images of the Feminine in Rembrandt's Work. Delft, 2003, pp. 78–79, 196 n. 58.

Jaap van der Veen in Uylenburgh & Son: Art and Commerce from Rembrandt to De Lairesse, 1625–1675. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2006, p. 149, fig. 94.

Marieke de Winkel. Fashion and Fancy: Dress and Meaning in Rembrandt's Paintings. Amsterdam, 2006, p. 320 n. 111.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 49, 70, fig. 57 (color).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. ix, 9, 400; vol. 2, pp. 576, 578, 589–96, no. 146, colorpl. 146, fig. 142 (eighth autoradiograph).

Walter Liedtke. "Rembrandt Revelations at the Metropolitan Museum." Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Beiheft: Wissenschaft auf der Suche 51 (2009), pp. 43, 45.

George S. Keyes in Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. New York, 2011, p. 116, fig. 59 (color).

Rudi Ekkart in Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age. Exh. cat., Szépmüvészeti Múzeum. Budapest, 2014, p. 194, under no. 24.

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