Sale, Josephus Augustinus Brentano (1753–1821), Amsterdam (De Vries & Brondgeest, Amsterdam, 13 May 1822, no. 282, as by Rembrandt [to De Vries for 3,205 florins]): in the sales catalogue, the figures are described as “landlieden uit Oud-Kastilië, welke met sluikgoederen reizen” (Castilian gypsies with their illicit goods). In 1824 the painting was exhibited at the British Institution in London as “Spanish Gypsy,” which was adopted in the sales catalogue of Christianus Johannes Nieuwenhuys, Christie’s, London, 10 May 1833, no. 123. When the painting was auctioned during the sale of the Dr. C. R. Dreesmann Collection, Christie’s, London, 11 April 2002, no. 538, it was still called “Spanish Gypsy.”
See Jacob Cats, “Het Spaens heydinnetje,” in Trou-Ringh (Amsterdam, 1937), 308–47. Thanks to David DeWitt for bringing Het Spaens heydinnetje to my attention. Mattheus Tengnagel, Het leven van Konstance: Waer af volgt het toneelspel De Spaensche heidin (Amsterdam, 1643).
For a description of gypsy dress, see Marieke de Winkel, Fashion and Fancy: Dress and Meaning in Rembrandt’s Paintings (Amsterdam, 2006), 265–66. The distinctive, disclike hat, also called a bern, was made from wickerwork covered by strips of linen and held up by a chin strap. Since gypsies were thought to come from Egypt, they were often included in Old Testament scenes set there, mostly from Exodus. There are several examples of Rembrandt’s use of the gypsy hat, including his etching of ca. 1644 (B. 57), just before the period in which Maes studied with him, depicting Mary in gypsy dress on the way to Egypt. In Maes’s own contemporary Abraham Dismissing Hagar and Ishmael (fig. 1), Hagar is also depicted with a gypsy hat.
For authors suggesting the possibility of a group portrait, see Werner Sumowski, “In Praise of Rembrandt’s Pupils,” in The Hoogsteder Exhibition of Rembrandt’s Academy, ed. Paul Huys Janssen and Werner Sumowski (Exh. cat. The Hague, Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder) (Zwolle, 1992), 74, and Paul Huys Janssen, “Nicolaes Maes, Young Woman with Three Children,” in The Hoogsteder Exhibition of Rembrandt’s Academy, ed. Paul Huys Janssen and Werner Sumowski (Exh. cat. The Hague, Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder) (Zwolle, 1992), 236–39, no. 30, who suggested that the artist was deliberately defying the traditions of Dutch portraiture by having all four figures looking in different directions. For another example of a maid portrayed with a child, see Frans Hals, Catharina Hooft with Her Nurse, ca. 1620, Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
A similar hat with a puffy brim appears early in Rembrandt’s oeuvre in his Sheet of Studies of Four Heads and a Half-Length Study of a Woman (recto), ca. 1633–35, silverpoint on vellum prepared with pale gray pigment, 13.4 x 8 cm, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Koenigs Collection, inv. R25, as well as much later in Barent Fabritius, The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1667, London, National Gallery, inv. 1338. Interestingly, Fabritius based his composition on Rembrandt’s two 1646 depictions of the subject (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, 1646, inv. 373; London, National Gallery, 1646, inv. NG47), but added the woman wearing the hat in the foreground himself. Unlike the hats in Rembrandt’s drawing and Fabritius’s paintings, the hat in the present painting contains an intricately woven pattern at the top. For a less elaborate but very similar dress over a high white vest, like those worn by the girls in the painting, see Mary’s dress in Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Rest on the Flight to Egypt, oil on canvas, 1653, 101 x 83.7 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, Bader Collection.
The woman’s status has already been noted by John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters, 9 vols. (London, 1829–42), 7:74, no. 175, and repeated in much of the literature. Marieke de Winkel, in an e-mail of June 2013, suggested the same (copy on file at the Leiden Collection). Many thanks to Marieke de Winkel for sharing her insights on the clothing in this work.
The tradition of depicting children with bridled goats can be traced back to Frans Hals’s Three Children with a Goat, ca. 1620, oil on canvas, 152 x 107.5 cm, Brussels, Royal Museum of Fine Arts. For a discussion of the motif of bridled goats and the symbolism of curbing children’s lust, see Jan Baptist Bedeaux and Rudi Ekkart, eds., Pride and Joy: Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500–1700 (Exh. cat. Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum; Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) (New York, 2000), 218–20, no. 57 for Jan Albertsz Rotius, Four-Year-Old Boy with Goat, 1652, panel, 116 x 87 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. nr. SK-A-995, in which the little boy firmly grips one of the goat’s horns, and 246–48, no. 67 for Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Willem Woutersz Oorthoord in a Goat-Cart, 1662, oil on canvas, 96 x 121 cm, Private Collection (formerly New York, Jack Kilgore).
On the benificial powers of red coral for children, see Saskia Kuus, “Jacob Willems Delff, Portrait of a Two-Year Old Boy, 1582, panel, Rijksmueum, inv. no. SK-A-1907,” in Pride and Joy: Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500–1700, ed. Jan Baptist Bedeaux and Rudi Ekkart (Exh. cat. Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum; Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) (New York, 2000), 102.
E-mail correspondence with Marieke de Winkel, April 2014 (copy on file at the Leiden Gallery): “this type of case used by women to carry their crochet needles or knives was common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and was the precursor of the so-called chatelaine.” Thanks to Marieke de Winkel, who also lists examples taken from Dutch inventories of the 1630s.
I am indebted to Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. for this suggestion.
Sale of Elizabeth Valckenier, née Hooft (1712–96), widow of Wouter Valckenier (1705–84), Amsterdam; Rycken, Amsterdam, 31 August 1796, no. 33. See also the Provenance and the Technical Summary: the signature is no longer visible on the painting.
Alfred von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, 3 vols. (Vienna, 1906–11), 2:90. See also a note by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot of ca. 1909 pertaining to this painting, preserved in the Hofstede de Groot fiches at the RKD in The Hague, in which he tentatively suggests an attribution to Maes. Hofstede de Groot noted that the least Rembrandtesque features of the painting are the lack of anatomy in the goat, the rendition of the boy, and the vegetation on the ground.
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith, 8 vols., (London, 1907–27), 6:500, no. 89; Wilhelm von Bode, Der Meister der holländischen und vlamischen Malerschulen (Leipzig, 1919), 66; 9th ed. (Leipzig, 1959), 77; Wilhelm Valentiner, Nicolaes Maes (Berlin, 1924), 11, 44, fig. 6; Werner Sumowski, “Christus segnet die Kinder: Bemerkungen zu einem Frühwerk von Nicolaes Maes,” Festschrift für Hans Ladendorf, ed. Peter Bloch and Gisela Zick (Cologne, 1970), 42; Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 6 vols (Landau, 1983–), 3:2011, 2055, no. 1329; 6:3628, 3677, no. 1329; Leon Krempel, Studien zu den datierten Gemälden des Nicolaes Maes (1634–1693) (Petersberg, 2000), 44–46, pl. II, 362, no. D 40, fig. 5.
For a discussion of the dating and the widely accepted attribution of the London painting to Maes, see Marjorie M. Wieseman, “Christus zegent de kinderen,” in De Zichtbaere Werelt: Schilderkunst uit de Gouden Eeuw in Hollands oudste stad, ed. Peter Marijnissen et al. (Exh. cat. Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum) (Zwolle, 1992), 228. See Piet Bakker’s biography in this catalogue: already five years later, in around 1658, Maes adapted a smoother style in which he continued to work until his death.
Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, 10 vols. (New York, 1979–92), 8:4116, no. 1835.
William Walker Robinson, The Early Works of Nicolaes Maes, 1653–1661 (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1996), no. C-12, as by School of Rembrandt. Many thanks to Mr. Robinson for sharing his current thoughts on the attribution in e-mail correspondence of March 2014 (copy on file at the Leiden Collection), from which this citation is taken.
See the biography of Maes by Piet Bakker in this catalogue. Leon Krempel, Nicolaes Maes (Petersberg, 2000), 44–46, pl. II, 362, no. D 40, fig. 5, places the painting after Abraham Dismissing Hagar and Ishmael and Christ Blessing the Children.
See Provenance. For Michiel van Musscher’s portraits, see MM-102a/b. Wouter Valckenier was the grandson of Cornelis Valckenier (1640–1700), Pieter’s second cousin.
Inscription, canvas weave, and ground and paint descriptions based on personal examination of February 2014, while the painting was framed and glazed at a private viewing room in New York.
Entry based in part on a 2012 examination report written by Simon Howell and Rachel Casey-Thomas of R. M. S. Shephard Associates, Wimbledon, UK.