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Work Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels with a Velvet Beret

Department of Paintings: Dutch painting

Hendrickje Stoffels au béret de velours

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Paintings
Dutch painting

Author(s):
Collange Adeline

An endearing portrait (dated to c. 1654) of the painter's companion, in the neo-Venetian style cultivated by Rembrandt in his maturity.

The painter's companion

A half-length portrait of a beautiful young woman of about twenty, richly dressed in fur and jewels. This is a loving portrayal by Rembrandt of Hendrickje Stoffels, the second nursemaid of Titus, Rembrandt's son by his wife Saskia (who died in 1642). Hendrickje became Rembrandt's mistress-a relationship that was frowned upon by Calvinist society, and condemned by the Reformed Church of Amsterdam. Yet she remained with Rembrandt and bore him two children, one of whom died very young. Along with Titus, Hendrickje managed an art firm through which Rembrandt sold his works, with shaky financial results, until she died in 1663, six years before the master himself.

A portrait full of tenderness

Rembrandt painted several portraits of Hendrickje, which are now in the Staatliche Museen (Berlin-Dahlem) and the National Gallery in London. The comely young woman was also his model for historical paintings such as the sublime Bathsheba Reading King David's Letter (in the Louvre). In this work, Rembrandt portrays her as loving companion rather than naked, alluring, biblical heroine. The pose is demure, the dark gentle eyes both proud and humble. The trusting expression no doubt reflects Rembrandt's love, but also echoes one of his self-portraits (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel), probably the pendant to this one.

Velvet chiaroscuro

This work has unfortunately suffered somewhat from the ravages of time, making the adorable little velvet cap rather difficult to distinguish. The rough strokes so characteristic of Rembrandt and the relief (usually indicated by layering) are badly worn. But we can still admire the subtle effects of lighting and the delicate, almost transparent shimmer of the fabric covering Hendrickje's shoulders. Light and shade blend into a velvet chiaroscuro, softening the outlines. The golden harmony of color (so close to that of the Venetians, especially of Titian) is characteristic of Rembrandt's mature works. It seems to enhance the gentleness of this model, painted with such tenderness.

Bibliography

Foucart Jacques, Les Peintures de Rembrandt au Louvre, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1982, p. 63-65.

Technical description

  • REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn (Leyde, 1606 - Amsterdam, 1669)

    Hendrickje Stoffels au béret de velours

  • H. : 0,74 m. ; L. : 0,61 m.

  • Collection de Louis XVI : acquis en 1784

    INV. 1751

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Rembrandt
    Room 31

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