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Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam)
oil on oval panel
59 x 44 cm
signed information

signed and dated in dark paint along the background, center right: “RHL van Rijn / 1632”

inventory number
Currently on view: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Manuth, Volker. “Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak.” In The Leiden Collection Catalogue. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. New York. (accessed May 26, 2018).

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One of the miracles of Rembrandt van Rijn’s paintings of individuals is that the expressions of his sitters never seem frozen. Even their personalities seem to evolve as one interacts with their gazes. These qualities are particularly evident in this charming depiction of an elegantly robed young girl with curly, somewhat frizzy blond hair. Although she stares directly at the viewer from the center of this oval panel, the slight twist of her body, with one shoulder higher than the other, helps soften her formal appearance. Light falling from the upper left also enlivens her presence by picking up nuances of her features, including her pronounced forehead, her somewhat asymmetrical eyes, the slight pout of her mouth, and the beginnings of a double chin. The shaded right side of her face, moreover, seems to recede more deeply into space than her lit side, a subtle difference in structure that adds character to her face. Even the color shifts in the ocher background, as Rembrandt plays with light against dark and dark against light, help create the sense that she is a living and breathing individual with a personality far more lively than first intimated by her restrained pose.

Rembrandt enhanced the pictorial character of the image with his distinctive painting techniques. He modeled the girl’s flesh tones with smoothly blended strokes, and rendered her blond hair with flowing, individual touches of the brush. He vigorously applied heavily laden paint to create the pattern of radial pleats of the white blouse, whereas he picked out the decorative motifs of the gold embroidery on her black gown with thick highlights. Finally, Rembrandt’s carefully placed accents lend weight and substance to the strand of pearls in her hair and the single pearl hanging from her right ear.

Rembrandt painted Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak in 1632, soon after he moved from Leiden to Amsterdam, at a time when his portraits and tronies (imaginative character studies of individual figures) were in great demand. It is oftentimes difficult to tell the difference between these two types of paintings, as Rembrandt infused both with personal characterizations that seem distinctive and reflective of a specific individual. This issue is particularly relevant for Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak, which has often been identified as a portrait but should instead be considered a tronie.

The sitter is most frequently identified as Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrandt’s first wife. However, Rembrandt and Saskia probably did not meet until a year after this painting was executed. Moreover, a comparison of the sitter in this painting and the silverpoint drawing Rembrandt made of Saskia in Friesland in 1633 on the occasion of their engagement () reveals clear differences. The girl in the Leiden Collection painting, for instance, has a more rounded head and more childlike features. Another proposed identification for the sitter is Rembrandt’s younger sister Elisabeth (Lysbeth). However, Rembrandt executed this painting in Amsterdam and Lysbeth apparently spent her whole life in Leiden, where she was buried in the Pieterskerk in 1655.

It is highly unlikely, indeed, that Rembrandt has here painted a formal portrait of a specific individual, family member or not. Even apart from the problems inherent in the above proposed identifications, there is the issue of the figure’s dress. Her outfit, with its high-necked, pleated, white blouse and dark cloak edged with gold embroidery, as well as the string of pearls in her hair and her pearl ear drops, harkens back to elegant sixteenth-century fashions. Such imaginative, fanciful outfits are characteristic of the tronies that Rembrandt and Jan Lievens (1607–74) depicted in Leiden during the late 1620s and early 1630s. These paintings, which came in different sizes and different degrees of finish, included depictions of young girls, wrinkled graybeards, weathered soldiers, and exotic potentates. They were made, in part, in preparation for history paintings, but also as works to be sold on the open market.

The same model appears in two other paintings that Rembrandt executed in 1632: A Young Woman in Profile with a Fan in Stockholm () and Bust of a Young Woman in a Cap in a private collection in Switzerland. In the Stockholm painting she is shown in strict profile to the left and wears similar clothing and pearl jewelry. In the other painting, likewise signed and dated 1632, she wears a plumed beret. A fourth painting depicting the same model, Bust of a Young Woman in Chapel Hill (), was executed by one of Rembrandt’s studio assistants, probably Isaac de Jouderville (ca. 1612–48). The presence of these four paintings featuring the same model by Rembrandt, and his workshop makes it highly unlikely that Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak was a commissioned portrait. Interestingly, the same model, in a nearly identical costume, appears in two of Rembrandt’s history paintings from the early 1630s: as Europa in The Rape of Europa, in the J. Paul Getty Museum, and as the woman (Esther?) in the Old Testament scene in Ottawa ().

In the eighteenth century, Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak was part of the distinguished collection of Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766) in Paris, where it was considered a pendant to the Chapel Hill painting, which is likewise oval in shape and has exactly the same dimensions. The first mention of these paintings as pendants occurs in the Catalogue des Tableaux de M. de Jullienne, ca. 1756, a room-by-room inventory of the paintings displayed in Jullienne’s Parisian hotel, illustrated with 152 miniatures in pen and watercolor. It is unlikely, however, that these works were conceived as pendants. Not only were they executed on different types of wood (the Leiden Collection painting is on Spanish cedar, whereas the Chapel Hill painting is on oak), they differ stylistically and qualitatively. Even though Rembrandt’s pupil, presumably Isaac de Jouderville, must have had access to the same model, the physiognomic details of the Chapel Hill painting are softer and less vividly defined, and the lighting does not similarly set off the head and upper body from the background. Most importantly, she lacks the compelling presence that so endears her to all viewers of Rembrandt’s subtle masterpiece in the Leiden Collection.

The journey of Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak through to its accession by the Leiden Collection is extremely well documented and quite fascinating. Sold in Paris in 1767 after the death of Jean de Jullienne, the painting spent more than a century in France before Furst Johannes II, prince of Liechtenstein acquired it in 1893. Between 1908 and 1929 it was in the collection of the Rt. Reverend Georgius Schmid von Gruneck, the bishop of Chur in Switzerland. In 1929, Robert Treat Paine II, a descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, purchased the painting and then generously placed it on long-term loan at various museums so that it could be studied by scholars and enjoyed by a wide public. In 1975, however, Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak was stolen from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the brazen character of the theft brought the painting great notoriety. The theft had been orchestrated by Myles J. Connor Jr., who, wearing a beard, glasses, a tweed suit and a fedora, escaped with the work, aided by accomplices firing shots at the steps of the museum. A year later the painting was recovered in dramatic fashion by state and federal officials who returned it to the museum, where it stayed until the family put it up for auction in 1986. That sale (to a private collector) compounded the painting’s fame because it sold for $10.5 million—a record for a work by the Dutch artist and the second highest price ever paid at auction for an Old Master painting. In 2007 this masterpiece was acquired in a private sale by the Leiden Collection (see Provenance).

- Volker Manuth
  • Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766), Paris, by 1756 (his sale, Pierre Remy, Paris, 30 March–22 May 1767, no. 131, with Young Woman with a Necklace, now in Chapel Hill, N.C. [1,210 livres to Donjeux]).
  • Duc de La Vallière (1708–80), (his sale, A. Paillet, Paris, 21 February 1781, no. 47, with Young Woman with a Necklace, now in Chapel Hill, N.C. [2,000 livres to Solier]).
  • Marquis de Chamgrand / de Proth / Saint-Maurice / Bouillac (sale, A. J. Paillet, Paris, 20–24 March 1787, no. 25 [1,000 livres to Paillet]).
  • Charles-René-Dominique Sochet Chevalier Destouches (1727–94), (his sale, A. J. Lebrun, Paris, 21 March 1794, no. 16 [651 francs to Basan]).
  • Comte de Sommariva (his sale, Charles Paillet, Paris, 18–23 February 1839, no. 90 [5,100 francs to Géunin]).
  • M. Valpinçon (his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 7–9 March 1881, no. 20 [8,450 francs to Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris; to E. Secrétan for 15,000 francs, by 1883]).
  • E. Secrétan, by 1883 (his sale, Paris, Charles Sedelmeyer, 1–4 July 1889, no. 154 [29,500 francs to Charles Sedelmeyer]).
  • Fürst Johannes II von Liechtenstein (1840–1929), Vienna, by 1893.
  • The Rt. Rev. Georgius Schmid von Grüneck (bishop of Chur, Switzerland), by 1908; [to Robert C. Vose Gallery, Boston, 1929].
  • Robert Treat Paine II (1861–1943), Boston, 1929; by descent to his son Richard Cushing Paine; by descent to his heirs, 30 April 1973; (sale, Sotheby’s, London, 10 December 1986, no. 44).
  • Private collection, 1986–2007; (private sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 29 November 2007, no. 99).
  • From whom acquired by the present owner in 2007.
  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, January 1930–February 1944, on loan with the permanent collection for several months a year [lent by Robert Treat Paine II, Boston].
  • Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, “Rembrandt and His Circle: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings,” 4 February–1 March 1936, no. 3 [lent by  Robert Treat Paine II, Boston].
  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, “Art in New England: Paintings, Drawings, Prints from Private Collections in New England,” 9 June–10 September 1939, no. 98 [lent by Robert Treat Paine II, Boston].
  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 7 July 1966–20 September 1986, on loan with the permanent collection [lent by Richard Cushing Paine; after 30 April 1973 by his heirs].
  • Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, November 2007–October 2011, on loan with the permanent collection [lent by the present owner].
  • Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, “Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship,” 30 October 2011–22 January 2012; Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, 19 February–28 May 2012; Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 24 June–16 September 2012, no. 12 [lent by the present owner].
  • Budapest, Szépművészeti Múzeum, “Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age,” 31 October 2014–15 February 2015, no. 95 [lent by the present owner].
  • Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, February 2015–November 2016, on loan with the permanent collection [lent by the present owner].
  • Paris, Museé du Louvre, “Masterpieces of The Leiden Collection: The Age of Rembrandt,” 22 February–22 May 2017 [lent by the present owner].
  • Beijing, National Museum of China, “Rembrandt and His Time: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection,” 17 June–3 September 2017 [lent by the present owner].
  • Shanghai, Long Museum, West Bund, “Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals in the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection,” 23 September 2017–25 February 2018 [lent by the present owner].
  • Descamps, Jean Baptiste. La vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandois: avec des portraits gravés en taille-douce, une indication de leurs principaux ouvrages & des réflexions sur leurs différentes manières. 4 vols. Paris, 1753–64, 2:97.
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The support is a single plank of vertically grained, oval-shaped Spanish cedar. The slightly irregular shape of the oval and small losses along the outer edges of the paint suggest the panel may have been trimmed just slightly after the paint dried, but also opens the possibility that the support was originally rectangular even if the composition was oval. The panel is unthinned and uncradled and has no bevels. Remnants of eight straight pieces of old paper tape create a hexagonal border along the outer edge of the oval panel reverse. Small black dots of resin or gum exude from and stain the panel reverse along the cedar’s pores. Five red wax seals, two white wax drips each with a horizontal thread embedded across them, one import stamp, three paper labels, and a numerical inscription are located along the panel reverse but there are no stencils, panel maker’s marks or machine tool marks. Two narrow parallel bands of adhesive residue above and below the two white drips and four pinholes along the ends of both strips suggest a rectangular label of some sort had previously been adhered to the panel reverse. An additional short white string is embedded and connects the two red wax seals below the white wax dots.

A light-colored ground has been thinly and evenly applied followed by a pale brown imprimatura. The paint has been built up in successive thin layers and smoothly applied with lively brushwork through the background and with thicker paint, with some use of impasto through the figure’s white shirt, flesh tones, and gold brocade trim. A granularity along some paint passages and pinpoint losses through others could benefit from further investigation. There is evidence of a now missing brush hair between the figure’s eyes and a fiber of unknown origin caught in the paint along the lower part of figure’s dress.

Infrared images captured at 900–1700 nanometers reveal lines of preparatory drawing, and compositional changes visible in the images include a slight shift in the position of the face around the chin and proper left eye.

The painting is signed and dated in dark paint along the background, center right.

The painting has not undergone conservation treatment since its acquisition in 2007 and remains in a good state of preservation.

Versions and Copies

  1. J. F. Grueber (possibly Johann Friedrich Gruber, d. 1681), whereabouts unknown (formerly or still in the Chauveau Collection, Paris).
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