Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Collection in Focus: Rembrandt

Take a closer look at three touching, humanist drawings by Rembrandt (1606–1669) in the Morgan's collection. John Pierpont Morgan loved Rembrandt. He owned 500 prints by Rembrandt, and in 1909 acquired his first drawings by the artist.

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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Two Studies of a Woman Asleep (Saskia?)
ca. 1635-1637
Pen and brown ink and wash, on laid paper; traces of framing line.
5 1/8 x 6 3/4 inches (130 x 171 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
I, 180

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Though Rembrandt van Rijn's oeuvre includes depictions of many grand subjects-from dramatic biblical scenes to portraits of wealthy and influential citizens of Amsterdam-he also turned his attention to more personal topics. In this, one of the most introspective drawings ever created by the artist, we see Rembrandt set his considerable talents as a draftsman toward the study of a sleeping woman, perhaps his beloved first wife Saskia. The artist's loose curving ink lines appear soft, even tender-like stray gossamer threads-and create a downy swaddle of pillow and blanket that cradle the woman's head, neck, and shoulders. Rembrandt's careful depiction of her slightly parted lips, relaxed wrist, and head nestled into the pillow not only shows us the physical phenomenon of sleep, but also evokes the comforting and peaceful sensations associated with deep rest. This drawing is thought to date to ca. 1635-37, coinciding with a period in which Saskia had four documented confinements to her bed, between 1635 and 1641. She died in 1642 from an illness, possibly tuberculosis. Though we cannot be completely sure of the woman's identity, what is apparent is Rembrandt's particular talent for capturing, through the emotive undulations of his drawn lines, the quintessence of a particular feeling, the spirit of a fleeting moment. Rembrandt produced a sizeable group of studies representing women in bed. In the case of this drawing, which features two views of the same women, the upper sketch was apparently made first. The lower sketch was added as the sleeper, now sunk more deeply into her pillows, shifted her hand, opened her mouth, and perhaps started to gently snore. -Felice Stampfle with contributions by Sarah W. Mallory


Watermark: fragment of a shield above the letters "WR" (similar to Briquet, no. 7211: Amsterdam, 1630-40).
Inscribed at lower left, in Rymsdyk's hand, in brown ink, "Rymsdyk's M."; on the old mount, at lower center, also in Rymsdyk's hand, in brown ink, "Rembrandt"; at left, in another hand, in brown ink, "Born near Leyden 1606", and at right, "died at Amsterdam 167[?]"; on the verso of the mount, at upper center, also in Rymsdyk's hand, in brown ink, "BXI >?V[?V in ligature]/ BXI?V[?V in ligature]B / Rymsdyk [slashed through 4 times]".

Jan van Rymsdyk (c. 1720-1790), London (L. 2167); presumably his sale, London, Greenwood's, 29 March 1790; probably William Tighe (1766- 1816), Woodstock House, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny (acc. to Fairfax Murray); possibly by descent; Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased, through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York, 1909; his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York; by whom given to the library, 1924
Associated names: 

Rymsdyk, Jan van, fl. ca. 1770, former owner.
Tighe, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.


Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, I, 180, repr.
Stampfle, Felice and Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann. Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections. Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum; New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1960, no. 24, repr.
Stampfle, Felice. Rubens and Rembrandt in Their Century : Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the Seventeenth Century from The Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1979 no. 69, repr.
Jane Shoaf Turner, with contributions by Felice Stampfle, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library: Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, New York, 2006, cat. no. 210.