The prototype of this image is a painting by Rembrandt himself of circa 1640 which only reappeared in 2005 and is now in the Leiden Collection in New York (see Literature). That painting had been in various American collections since the early 20th century and was largely unknown when it was sold in these rooms on 26 January, 2006, lot 10, where it was acquired by the current owner. In the Leiden Collection Study of a woman in a white cap, Rembrandt presents a masterly study in light and form. It is clear that given the sitter—who was most likely simply a domestic servant in his own employ rather than a patron— the painting was made as a personal object, a way to work through specific artistic challenges.
The present panel repeats these challenges and meets them with skill. Pigment is applied in a free and painterly manner similar to that which Rembrandt used, but not in the dry stroke by stroke fashion of a mere copyist. It is by an independent hand, and must have been made in Rembrandt’s studio, probably under his direction. That the painting originated in the workshop is confirmed by a number of factors, not least of which is the history of Rembrandt’s original, which was painted over at an early date to create a more formal portrait.1 This picture reflects the initial composition, and retains the rounded top that was original to the Leiden Collection study. Dendrochronological analysis of the present panel also places the painting firmly in the right period, with a plausible dating for use from 1635 and upwards.2 The Leiden painting has been dated stylistically to circa 1640, thus suggesting that the two panels were created within a relatively short period of time. Those years were a period of great artistic activity in Rembrandt’s studio and a number of important artists were training under him at the time; Govaert Flinck was in the workshop until 1638, and Ferdinand Bol until about 1641. While it is difficult to say who was the author of this Study of a Woman in a White Cap, it must have been one of Rembrandt’s more talented pupils.
1. Amongst other changes and additions, a sumptuous fur collar was added to the painting in an attempt to create a more commercial image.
2. A Dendrochronological analysis by Prof. Dr. Peter Klein is available for inspection, noting that the panel is made of one oak board of Western German/Netherlandish origin. He considers a creation of the panel from 1635 upwards to be plausible.
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