Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam)
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam)

A strolling couple: an old man and a woman carrying a market pail

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam)
A strolling couple: an old man and a woman carrying a market pail
black chalk on thin ivory-colored oriental paper
5 7/8 x 3¾ in. (13.7 x 9.5 cm.)
C. Ploos van Amstel (cf. L. 3002-3004), with his inscription 'Rembrandt f. b 5 1/2 1 3½' (verso).
Jacob de Vos Jbsz.; Amsterdam, Roos, Frederick Muller & Co., 22-24 May 1883, lot 416.
Possibly K.E. Maison, Berlin, 1931.
Anonymous sale [Dr. Arthur Feldmann, Brno]; Gilhofer & Ranschburg, Lausanne, 28 June 1934, lot 226 (unsold).
Victor and Hilda Haida, New York, before 1938, and by descent.
C. Vosmaer, Rembrandt, sa vie et ses oeuvres, The Hague, 1887, p. 600.
W.W. Robinson, 'A black chalk drawing by Rembrandt' in Festschrift für Konrad Oberhuber, Milan, 2000, pp. 303-06.
W.W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish drawings from the Maida and George Abrams collection, exhib. cat., London, British Museum and elsewhere, 2002, p. 120, fig. 2.
Sale room notice
This drawing is sold unframed. This Dutch, 17th Century frame has been lent by a private collector.

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Lot Essay

Rembrandt's A strolling couple was forgotten by scholars and collectors from its 1934 appearance at auction in Lausanne until Robinson published it in his article in 2000. Despite being overlooked by scholars in the latter half of the twentieth century, this drawing was understandably esteemed by earlier connoisseurs of Rembrandt. The 1934 auction catalogue included a preface by Otto Benesch, and the entry recorded the approval of C. Hofstede de Groot and M.J. Friedländer. Frits Lugt noted his approval with a '+' in his archives.
The drawing is consistent in style, subject and medium with a series of summarily sketched black chalk drawings done around the 1640s of beggars, elderly people, vagabonds and figures in Eastern European dress. They appear to have been quickly sketched from life. A drawing in the Abrams Collection shows a solitary figure of an old bearded man wearing a floppy hat and heavy robe, carrying a cane which is very similar to the man in the present drawing (Robinson, 2002, pp. 120-21, no. 47a). In A strolling couple the man is aided by an equally elderly woman upon whom he seems to be leaning for support. With an economy of line that allows the viewer to read what is not actually on the page but what is alluded to with a few deft strokes, Rembrandt has managed to convey weight and motion as well as intimacy and hesitation. The use of chalk in this drawing - with lighter lines finished with strong hatchings in different directions as accents - is distinctly Rembrandt's.
This interest in the depiction of elderly people is seen in Rembrandt's prints as well. Self portrait of circa 1632 includes an elderly couple standing back-to-back (Bartsch 363) while a 1646 etching includes a single female beggar (Bartsch 170). Robinson notes two etchings of similar subject matter that are dated 1648, Jews in a synagogue and Beggars receiving alms at the door of a house (Hollstein 126, 176). In The Hundred Guilder Print from the same period, circa 1648 (Bartsch 74) an elderly bearded and blind man, wearing a hat and holding a cane while leaning on another man for support, approaches Christ from the right side of the composition (fig. 1). It is the same configuration as the present drawing, but in reverse.
This drawing belonged to Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (1726-1798), the great and wide-ranging Dutch collector (in addition to 7,000 drawings he also collected paintings, sculpture, enamels, medals, coins, manuscripts and scientific instruments). On the verso is Ploos van Amstel's inscription which notes the artist's name and the drawing's dimensions. There is no record of the drawing for nearly another century until it appeared at auction in Amsterdam in 1883 and then went through a succession of owners until its acquisition by the Czech lawyer Dr. Arthur Feldmann. Dr. Feldmann and his wife Gisela amassed a collection of over 750 Old Master drawings between 1922 and 1939, many acquired from the Viennese dealer Gustav Nebehay upon the advice of the great Rembrandt scholar Otto Benesch. In 1934 328 drawings from the Feldmann Collection were put up for auction in Lausanne, but only 87 of them sold - the sale a victim of the prevailing economic uncertainty before World War II. Rembrandt's A strolling couple returned to Brno along with many of the other unsold drawings. Much of the collection was confiscated by the Nazis when they invaded Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. The Rembrandt escaped this fate, as did other drawings from the Feldmann Collection which only began to reappear on the market after the war.

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