Lot 6
  • 6

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
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  • Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
  • Portrait of a Young Woman with a Black Cap
  • signed and dated lower right RHL (in ligature) . van R... / 163 (2)
  • oval, oil on canvas on a wood support


César Gabriel, Duc de Choiseul-Praslin, Paris;
His deceased sale, Paris, February 18 - 25, 1793, part lot 38, 700 Livres to Sarazin;1
Madame Gentil de Chavagnac, Paris;
Her deceased sale, Paris, June 20 1854, lot 22 for 3,000 francs;
Comtesse Lehon, Paris;
Her sale, Paris, April 2 - 3 1861, lot 18 for 3,000 francs;
Possibly Sir John Charles Robinson (based on an annotation in the Cook family archives, reflecting either his actual ownership or his agency for Sir Francis Cook);
Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt. (1817-1901), Richmond, acquired in 1873;
Sir Frederick Cook, 2nd Bt. (1844-1920), Richmond;
Sir Herbert Cook, 3rd Bt. (1868-1939),  Richmond;
The Trustees of The Cook 1939 Picture Settlement, by whom sold, with five others from the collection, on April 19, 1940, for a total of £40,000, to
Nathan Katz, Dieren;
Herman Göring, acquired from the above in 1941 for Fl 85,000;
Restituted to Nathan Katz through the Stichting Nederlandsch Kunstbezit, 1947;
Purchased from the estate of Nathan Katz in Basel by the late owner, February 13, 1953, for 45,000 Swiss francs


Amsterdam, Stedelijkmuseum, Rembrandt:  schilderijen bijeengegracht ter gelegenheid van de inhuldiging van Hare Majesteit Koningin Wilhellmina, 1898, no. 56
London, Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, 1899,  no. 56; 
Basel, Rembrandt-Austellung, Galerie Katz, 1948, cat. no. 7;
Kyoto, Kyoto National Museum and Frankfurt am Main, Städlsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Rembrandt Rembrandt, November 3, 2002- January 13, 2003 and February 1 - May 11, 2003, respectively, pp. 80-81, no. 13, reproduced, p. 81;
Leiden, Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, Rembrandt’s Mother, Myth and Reality, December 16, 2005 to March 19, 2006,  pp. 221-225, no. 71, reproduced;
Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis and Berlin, Gemälde Galerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Rembrandt, Genie auf der Sucht, April 1 - July 2, 2006 and 4 - November 5, 2006, no. 15


J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters, London 1836,  vol. 7, p. 174, no. 547;
W. von Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei, Braunschweig 1883, pp. 421 and 592 no. 258;
W. von Bode, Rembrandt, vol. I, p. 148, no. 58
E. Dutuit, Tableaux de dessins de Rembrandt.  Catalogue historique et descriptif....  Supplement à l'oeuvre complet de Rembrandt, Paris 1885, pp. 43 and 61, no. 186;
E. Michel, Rembrandt:  His Life, his Work and his Time, New York 1894, vol. 1, p. 109 and vol. 2, p. 235;
E.W. Moes, Iconographia Batava:  Beredeneerde Lijst van geschilderde en gebeeldhouwde portretten van Noord-Nederlanders in vorige eeuwen, Amsterdam 1905, vol. 2, p. 308, no. 6686, 3;
W. Bode and C. Hofstede de Groot, Rembrandt.  Beschreibenes Verzeichnis seiner Gemälde mit den heliographischen Nachbildungen.  Geschichte seines Lebens und seiner Kunst. pp. 28 and 147-48, cat. no. 58, reproduced;
Rembrandt:  Des Meisters Gemälde, Klassiker der Kunst , Stuttgart and Leipzig 1906, p. 47, reproduced;
Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures a Doughty House Richmond (Belonging to Sir Frederick Cook, Bart., Visconde de Monserrate), London 1907 and 1914, p. 30, no. 193;
The Work of Rembrandt, Reproduced in over Five Hundred Illustrations, Classics in Art Series, vol. 2, New York 1909 (American edition of the above), p. 57, reproduced;
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländischer Künstler-Lexicon, Vienna and Leipzig 1910, vol. 2, p. 411;
J.O. Kronig, A Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House Richmond & elsewhere in the collection of Sir Frederick Cook Bt.  Visconde de Monserrate, ed. by Herbert Cook, vol. II, London 1914, p. 76, no 315, reproduced plate XVI;
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Most Emminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. VI, London 1916, p. 331, cat. no. 697;
M.W. Brockwell, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart., London 1932, p. 73, no. 315;
A. Bredius, The Paintings of Rembrandt, Vienna and New York 1935, (English version), vol. 1, p.5, cat. no. 84, reproduced ; 
K. Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde, Berlin 1966, pp. 23-24, no. 451, reproduced;
H. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, New York 1968, p. 494, no. 114, reproduced p. 263;
H. Gerson, The Complete Edition of the Paintings by A. Bredius, Revised by H. Gerson, London 1969, p. 554, cat. no. 84, reproduced p. 78;
J. Bolten and H. Bolton-Rempt, The Hidden Rembrandt, English ed. Verona 1978, p. 177, no. 113, reproduced;
G. Arpino, L'Opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt, Milan 1978, p. 98, no. 85;
G. Schwartz, Rembrandt, His Life, His Paintings, New York, 1985, p.197;
C. Tümpel, Rembrandt,  All Paintings in Colour, English-language edition, New York 1993, pp. 80 and 410, no. 148*, as doubtful attribution;
Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. II, Dordrecht, Boston and Lancaster 1986, pp. 695-97, no. C61, as 'an old imitation, probably done outside Rembrandt's circle;
D. Gros Becker, 'Untersuchung und Restaurierung eines Damenporträts von Rembrandt,' in Schweizersiches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft.  Jahresbericht 1996, pp. 28-32;
E. Danziger, 'The Cook collection, its founders and its inheritors,' in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLVI, no. 1216, July 2004, p. 448;
J. Gitaij, ed., Rembrandt Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue Kyoto and Frankfurt am Main 2002,  pp. 80-81, no. 13, reproduced, p. 81;
Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. IV, The Self Portraits, Dordrecht 2005, pp.629-636, Corrigenda et Addenda, II C 61/Br. 84, as by Rembrandt;
G. Korevaar in C. Vogelaar & G. Korevaar, ed., Rembrandt’s Mother, Myth and Reality, exhib. cat. Leiden and Zwolle 2005, pp. 221-225, no. 71, reproduced p. 222;
G. Cavalli-Björkman in L. B¢gh R¢nbert & E. de la Fuente Pedersen,
B. W. Lindeman in Rembrandt, Genie auf der Sucht, exhibtion catalogue Amsterdam and Berlin  2006, pp.268-69, no. 15, reproduced p. 269;
J. Kelch, 'Rembrandt Now and Then, Art Criticism and Connoiseurship,' in E. van de Wetering,  Rembrandt:  Quest of a Genius, Zwolle and Amsterdam 2006, p. 228, reproduced p. 227, fig. 260.


Catalogue Note

Rembrandt painted this subtle and accomplished portrait in 1632, shortly after he had moved to Amsterdam.  It was a period of remarkable creativity and success for him, as he built upon the skills he had developed in Leiden. Although long identified as a portrait of his younger sister, Lysbeth, the Young Woman with a Black Cap was intended as a depiction of a type, not an individual.  The sitter is intended as an anonymous Oriental, an exotic figure, perhaps from an earlier time – not a young woman from Amsterdam.  The style and technique are characteristic of Rembrandt’s portraits from the early 1630s, a combination of refinement and bravura in which the subtle modeling of the features are combined in a seamless whole with the loose brushwork of the costume and ornaments.  It is painted on canvas, which was later cut down to an oval and pasted on a panel.  Despite this, the depiction sits quite comfortably within its oval format.  Its altered form and later over-paintings caused the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) to reject it the work of an imitator in 1972, but in 1995, following a cleaning and thorough physical analysis, they reinstated it as an authentic Rembrandt.  Now that old additions and dirty varnish have been removed, we have the opportunity to enjoy this early work by Rembrandt.

At the end of 1631, Rembrandt left Leiden for Amsterdam and moved into the house of the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh.  Rembrandt had been working with Uylenburgh for some time and earlier in 1631 had invested in his business.  Now he wanted to be in the commercial center of the Netherlands and have greater access to Uylenburgh’s clients, particularly in order obtain more of the lucrative commissions for portraits.  Rembrandt painted the Young Woman with a Black Cap during his first full year in the city, a period of astonishing popular and commercial success.

Subject:  Portrait or Tronie?
For more than 150 years, the painting was identified as a portrait of Rembrandt’s younger sister, Lysbeth.  She was thought to have accompanied Rembrandt when he moved from Leiden to Amsterdam and kept house for him, though there are no records to support this theory.  The Young Woman with a Black Cap is one of a group of works described as portraits of Lysbeth, which includes the Bust of a Young Woman sold at Sotheby’s London, December 10, 1986, lot 44 (fig. 1; Rembrandt Corpus II A 50) and The Young Woman in Profile with a Fan in Stockholm (fig. 2; II A 49).  The various paintings, taken from different taken from different points of view, depict young, fair women with soft, slightly plump faces and bulbous noses.  All the sitters have wavy hair, pulled straight back (most are blond, rather than brown-haired as here), a small mouth and the suggestion of a double chin, which has a slight cleft.  They are clad in exotic dress, with rich fabrics, gold embroidery and jewelry not the usual dress of a young woman in seventeenth century Amsterdam.  

Modern scholars, have for the most part rejected the concept of the Young Woman with a Black Cap as a portrait of Lysbeth and considered the work instead to be a tronie or anonymous head.  The term tronie was first used in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century and derived from the Old French word trogue meaning head.  Although seventeenth century usage was not always consistent, a tronie referred to a characteristic type, as distinguished from a counterfeytsel or portrait (a representation of an identifiable sitter). Rembrandt had made numerous tronies before he moved to Amsterdam:  during the years in Leiden, when he shared a studio with Jan Lievens, the two painted more tronies than any of their contemporaries, including many of old men and women that inevitably appeared in later inventories as portraits of Rembrandt’s father or mother.  When he moved to Amsterdam, he continued paint tronies as a parallel and complementary activity to the commissioned portraits. 

His most famous tronies are the expressive tronies, usually depictions of men showing a specific mood or reaction. Rembrandt often used himself as the model for these, as in his Self Portrait with an Open Mouth in Munich (I A 19) and in a number of etchings including the Self Portrait Wide-Eyed (fig. 2). The paintings are executed in bold strokes with heavy impasto, a technique known as Rembrandt’s ‘rough style.’  The other type, which includes Young Woman with a Black Cap, are what Schackenburg referred to as costume tronies.2 These were exotic figures costumed in studio garments – turbans, velvet robes, rich-looking jewelry – and were often listed in inventories as orientals or antique figures. Sometimes Rembrandt clothed them in garments of an earlier period to suggest their exotic nature; here elements of the costume are seventeenth century, though the combination is idiosyncratic.  The dress is very similar to that of the woman in the Musical Allegory (I A7), with its thin, draped scarf and fitted bodice.  However, posing a woman in a beret is unprecedented in Rembrandt’s oeuvre

The costume tronies are different in format and style from the expressive tronies.  They are often half- or even three-quarter length representations and are richer in narrative detail.  Perhaps in order to capture this detail, Rembrandt used a more refined technique, with tighter brushstrokes and smoother transitions than in the expressive heads.  The costume tronies were conceived as finished works, not as models for his history paintings, and were intended for sale.3  They were, in a sense, portraits, but of defined types rather than specific sitters.  Nonetheless studio practice at the time indicates that they were drawn from actual models, not from the artist’s imagination.  As we know, Rembrandt used himself as a model and it is usually thought that his other models came from his immediate circle, which is how the name Lysbeth became attached to the picture.  However, the 1637 inventory of the art dealer and painter Lambert Jacobsz. suggests another possibility.  It refers to ‘a small tronie of an Oriental woman, the likeness of Uylenburgh’s wife, after Rembrandt.’4  Though the passage cannot be conclusively linked to this painting, the early date of the reference is a strong indication that Uylenbergh’s wife was indeed one of Rembrandt’s models during this period, and could have been the sitter. 

Rembrandt’s Technique
Given the close relationship, it is not surprising that Rembrandt uses much the same technique for his tronies as for his commissioned portraits of the early 1630s.  He leaves the background of the Young Woman with a Black Cap dark and undefined, with a lighter section bordering the sitter’s check and following the dark line of her dress.  A similar approach can be found in the Portrait of a Young Woman Seated from Vienna (II A 55), the Portrait of a Young Man, in a private collection in Sweden (II A 60) and Bust of a Young Woman (fig. 1).  The effect in the present work is to strengthen the contours of the right side of the face (her left), which is in shadow.  It also provides a strong, clear outline to the right arm and shoulder, balancing the rounder, more three dimensional left shoulder, which is twisted slightly toward the viewer.  By turning the sitter slightly to the right, rather than placing her in an absolutely frontal position, he gives her greater dynamism and a suggestion of action.  This is not a fixed statue before us, but a living person who might move at any second.  While Rembrandt carefully models the face, using short brush strokes and subtle variations of color, he never allows the details to dominate the overall effect.  He paints the smooth rim of the eyelids in small yet bold strokes of salmon pink and the reflection on the tip of her nose in a few strokes of white.  The work is perhaps as much a study of the effects of light and shade as a depiction of an exotic type.  The sitter’s head is turned slightly to the right, so that strong light from the left casts a shadow all along the right side of her face and neck. It defines her nose and the socket of her eye, and spills down partly covering the right side of her mouth.  The effect is to emphasize the roundness of her nose and the soft plumpness of her chin and neck below.

Rembrandt paints her costume more loosely, rendering the folds of the scarf beneath her dress in bold, almost abstract strokes.  They create an impression of shimmering fabric, but the lack of specificity allows the viewer’s eye to pass quickly over them and not distract from the sitter herself.  In a similar fashion, Rembrandt builds the gold ornaments with broad strokes of brown and abstract dots of white and gold so they quite literally stand up from the dark fabric of the dress.

The Canvas Support and the Attribution of the Painting
Much of this was not apparent in 1972 when the RRP first examined the painting.  Significant parts of the painting were obscured by over-painting, particularly in the shaded areas of the face, and the whole was covered by a brown varnish.  They also saw the work in less than ideal conditions in the home of the late owner.  The subtlety disappeared and some of the passages were handled in a tentative and rather clumsy manner. The fact that the work was on canvas rather than the usual panel was also troubling.  As a result, it was published in volume 2 of A Corpus of Rembrandt’s Paintings, C61 as ‘an old imitation, probably done outside Rembrandt’s circle.’ 5 However in 1994 the RRP decided to reexamine the painting in conjunction with their analysis of two other versions of the subject.  In 1995 they brought it to the Schweizerishes Institut für Kunstwissenschaft in Zurich, where they had proper lighting, X-radiography and all the other necessary scientific tools at their disposal. 

The scientific examination revealed that the very materials of the painting linked the Young Woman with a Black Cap to Rembrandt’s studio.  The structure of the canvas itself closely resembles that used for Portrait of a Couple in an Interior (II C 67), a work from the studio, and may even have come from the very same bolt of cloth.6  The prepared ground is of a type Rembrandt used almost exclusively in his early works on canvas.  It is a double layer:  the lower a reddish brown, the upper, gray. The combination of pigments in the upper layer is very unusual and is found in seven other paintings by Rembrandt or from his studio from 1632-33.8

It was apparent from the beginning that the composition had been cut down.  The incomplete signature at the right and abrupt cropping of the jeweled pin at the lower edge, indicated that the work had originally continued further to the right and below.  Radiographs of the canvas confirmed these observations.  They also revealed minimal cusping at the sides and above, but no cusping along lower edge.9  This confirmed the panel’s observation that the painting had been reduced at the right and also suggested it had been cropped at the left and above, but not whether it had been cut at the lower edge as well.  These questions were answered by other means.  The radiographs showed that the line of the drapery at the right originally extended further out.  The subsequent light cleaning then revealed that the sitter was wearing a cloak and and that her arm was extended. The gesture, though truncated, was very similar to that in the Young Woman in Profile (fig. 2), though seen from a different angle.  An eighteenth century copy of the painting, which shows the figure in waist-length strengthens that hypothesis.  All these elements taken together confirm that the composition was originally considerably larger.  This greater size would explain Rembrandt’s decision to use canvas rather than panel as a support.

The Young Woman with a Black Cap was probably pasted onto its present panel at the same time that it was cut down into an oval.  The transformation must have taken place before the Choiseul-Praslin sale of February 1793 (see Provenance), when it was described as an oval composition.  In the auction catalogue it was identified as a portrait of one of Rembrandt’s daughters and paired with a painting described as self portrait of the artist wearing a red toque.  The latter has been very tentatively identified as the Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes, now in the Wynn Collection.10  The Young Woman with a Black Cap may have been transformed into an oval to serve as a pendant to the Self Portrait

When the old varnish was removed and the picture lightly cleaned at the Schweizerishes Institut, the RRP was able for the first time to truly see Rembrandt’s handling of the paint.  One of the most striking and characteristic elements was the artist’s use of light in defining the forms and the interplay of warm and cool tones in his modeling of the face.11  In addition: 

One could refer to the typical avoidance of linear elements in favour of continuity in the plastic forms, noticeable in many of Rembrandt’s works.  One could point to the way the light reflections in the pearls are applied and how in such passages a specific, potentially Rembrandtesque balance exists between paint as matter and the material textures it suggests.  In short, an extensive list of potentially significant characteristics for an attribution to Rembrandt could be drawn up, all arguing in favour of attributing this painting to Rembrandt.  Indeed on the basis of these qualitative, less ponderable and communicable criteria, we are convinced that the present painting is an autograph work by Rembrandt.12 

The History of the Painting
The Young Woman with a Black Cap changed hands relatively few times since it was first recorded in the auction of the collection of the Duc de Choiseul-Praslin, a soldier and diplomat, in 1793.  It was in two further French noble collections and remained in France until at least 1861. 

The next owner may have been Sir John Charles Robinson, who was the superintendent of art collections at the South Kensington Museum (the precursor of the Victoria and Albert Museum) and later surveyor of the Queen's pictures.   In 1873 the Young Woman with a Black Cap was purchased by Sir Francis Cook (who was advised by Robinson, see Provenance).  Cook, a Victorian textile merchant, put together a collection of more that 500 paintings that rivaled the greatest public collections of the day. It included, among other masterpieces, the Three Marys at the Tomb by Jan van Eyck, now in the Musuem Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam,  The Adoration of the Magi, by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi and the Portrait of a Boy by Rembrandt, in the Norton Simon Museum.He had begun collecting in a modest way in his youth, and in the later 1850s started buying Greek and Roman antiquities on a large scale.  However, it was not until he came to know John Charles Robinson that he became a serious collector of paintings.  Many of his first purchases were, in fact, from Robinson’s collection.  Although Cook was very much his own person when it came to his collecting, he continued to take the advice of Robinson throughout the rest of his life and purchased a significant number of paintings through him.   The Young Woman with a Black Cap passed to his son Frederick, who preserved the collection but did not add to it.  Herbert, Francis’s grandson was an avid collector, art historian and one of the founder’s of The Burlington Magazine.  However, during his lifetime the family fell into financial straits and after his death the collectiorn began to be dispersed.  The Young Woman with a Black Cap was in the very first group of six paintings sold by the trustees after his death to the dealer Nathan Katz, in 1940.  Among the others were another portrait by Rembrandt  Alotte Adriansz. Now in the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam and a putative self portrait, now lost, as well as pictures by Terborch, Metsu and Van Dyck.

In 1941 it was acquired by Göring but was restituted to Katz after the war.  The late owner bought the painting from Katz's estate in 1953.  Now after nearly 65 years this wonderful work has come on the market again.  The old retouchings removed and the attribution reconfirmed, the Young Woman with a Black Cap is once again revealed as a charming and sophisticated work by the 26-year-old master, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn.

We are grateful to John Somerville, Keeper of the Cook Collection Archive, for his help in cataloguing this lot.


1  The lot originally included two paintings, a Self Portrait in a Red Beret and the present work, described as a 'Portrait d'une de ses filles' but they were sold as separate items.  E. Dutuit, Op. cit., p. 10, incorrectly cites the Portrait of a Young Woman as having been in the sale of the de Calonnne collection.  However, it was lot 39 (Br. ) which came from de Calonne.
2  B. Schnackenburg, ‘Young Rembrandt’s “Rough Manner”.  A Painting Style and Its Sources,’ in The Mystery of the Young Rembrandt, E. van der Wetering and B. Schnackenburg, ed., Wolfratshausen 2001, p. 112 and passim.
Ibid., p. 112.
4  RRP, vol.4, p. 629.
Ibid., vol. 2, p. 695.6
Ibid., vol. 4, pp. 632-33.
Ibid., vol. 4, pp. 632.
8  Ibid,  vol. 4, pp. 633 and. 324.
9  Cusping is a distoration of canvas that appears at the edges of the material when it is stretched, with the greatest distoration appearing closest to the stretcher.  If a large sheet of canvas is cut after it was primed and then attached to a stretcher, there will be no cusping along the cut edge.  
10  Ibid.,vol. 4 p. 632.
11  Ibid.,vol. 4 p. 634.
12  Ibid.