REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)
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REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)
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PROPERTY OF A FAMILY TRUST
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)

Portrait of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (c.1565-1644), bust-length; an­d Portrait of Jaapgen Carels (1565-1640), bust-length

Details
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN (LEIDEN 1606-1669 AMSTERDAM)
Portrait of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (c.1565-1644), bust-length; an­d Portrait of Jaapgen Carels (1565-1640), bust-length
the first signed and dated 'Rembrandt / f. 1635' (centre right), indistinctly signed 'Remb[...]' (lower right), and inscribed 'Æ 69' (centre left); the second signed, dated and inscribed 'Æ 70 / Rembrandt / f. 1635' (centre left)
oil on panel, oval
the first 8 ½ x 6 5/8 in. (20.8 x 16.7 cm.); the second 7 ¾ x 6 ¼ in. (19.9 x 16.7 cm.)
(2)a pair
Provenance
Presumably by descent from the sitters to their daughter,
Catharina van der Pluym (1606-1670), Amsterdam and Leiden, listed in her posthumous inventory of 1671, inv. nos. 28(a) and 28(b), as ‘twee ovael kontrefeijtsels van een man ende vrouw, tien gulden ƒ 10’ (‘two oval portraits of a man and a woman, ten guilders ƒ 10’), and by inheritance to her brother, to whose home on the Kloveniersburgwal her household effects were transferred,
Willem Jansz. van der Pluym (1596-1675), Amsterdam, and by inheritance to his great-grandson,
Marten ten Hove (1683-1759), Amsterdam; (†) sale with Jean François Tourton (1688-1751), Hendrick de Winter, Amsterdam, 8 April 1760 (=1st day), lots 8 and 9, as ‘Een Mans Pourtret met een kraag om zyn hals, zynde een Borststuk, zeer kragtig geschildert, in een Ovaal, door Rembrandt, Ao. 1635. hoog 8 duim, breet 6½ duim’ (‘A man’s portrait with a collar around his neck, like a Borststuk, very powerfully painted, in an oval, by Rembrandt, Ao. 1635. 8 inches high, 6½ inches wide’) and ‘Een Vrouwe Pourtret, door dito, zynde een weerga, deze beide Pourtretten verbeelden dezelve te zyn als No. 1. 2.’ (‘A portrait of a lady, by ditto, being a pair, both these portraits depicting the same as No. 1. 2.’ [being the portraits of the sitters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and American University Museum, Washington, D.C]), where acquired for 51 florins by the following,
with Pieter Yver (1712-1787), Amsterdam.
Arnould Leers, Lord of Amyden and Alderman of Rotterdam (1698-1766); his sale (†), Blinkvliet, Winter and Kok, Amsterdam, 19-22 May 1767, lot 79 (=1st day), as ‘Twee Pourtraitjes, zynde Man en Vrouw, door Rembrant, in’t oval; hoog 9, breet 7 duimen’ (65 florins).
(Possibly) Gerrit Braamcamp (1699-1771), Amsterdam; his sale (†), Philippe van der Schley, Amsterdam, 31 July 1771, lot 174, as a pair, 'Rembrandt, Een Mans en Vrouwen Pourtrait ter halver Lyf' ('A man and woman's portrait at half length'), where acquired for 325 florins by the following,
with Jan Yver (1747-1814), Amsterdam, possibly for the following,
Count Vincent Potocki (c.1740-1825), Warsaw; his sale, 1781 (dates unknown), lots 96 and 97, as a pair, ‘Portraits du Père & de la Mère de Rembrandt. Tableaux ovales peins sur bois: haut 7 pouces 4 lignes, large 6 pouces 3 lignes chaque’, where unsold and reoffered on the premises of his hotel on rue Caumartin, no. 22, Paris, 8 February 1820 (=1st day), lot 817, as a pair, ‘Un Homme et une Femme vus à mi-corps: l’un, tête nue, son vêtement noir est surmonté d’une large fraise; l’autre est coiffée en bonnet et porte une grande fraise en batiste; dans les fonds, à ces deux Tableaux, qu’on attribue aussi à Rembrandt: Rembrandt, 1635. H. 7 p. 2 l. L. 6 p. B. forme ovale’, where acquired for 48.5 francs by,
Jean-Baptiste Roslin, Baron d'Ivry (1775-1839), Château d'Hénonville, near Beauvais.
James Murray, 1st Baron Glenlyon (1782-1837); Christie’s, London, 18 June 1824, lot 76, as ‘Rembrandt – very spirited and finely coloured’, sold for 13 gns. to Rutley, through whom acquired by an ancestor of the present owners.
Literature
Posthumous inventory of the estate of Catharina van der Pluym, 1671, preserved in the Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, 2410, fol. 100-111, film no. 2551, inv. nos. 28(a) and 28(b), as ‘twee ovael kontrefeijtsels van een man ende vrouw, tien gulden ƒ 10’.
P. Terwesten, Catalogus of Naamlijst van Schilderijen, met derzelver pryzen. Zedert den 22. Augusti 1752. tot den 21. November 1768. Zo in Holland, als Braband en andere Plaatzen in het openbaar Verkogt. Dienende tot een vervolg of Derde Deel op de Twee Deelen der uitgegeeve Cataloquen door wylen de Heer Gerard Hoet, The Hague, 1770, p. 601, no. 72, listing the 1767 sale of Arnould Leers.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, VI, London, 1916, pp. 371-2 and 408, as pendant nos. 793e, ‘A Man with a ruff’, and 889g, ‘Portrait of a woman’.
A. Bredius, ‘Karel van der Pluym: Neef en leerling van Rembrandt’, Oud Holland, XLVIII, 1931, p. 262, Appendix B, under the transcription of Catharina van der Pluym’s 1671 inventory.
A. Rottermund, ‘O warszawskiej galerii obrazów Wincentego Potockiego’, Cour et Jardin czyli pomiędzy mecenasem i artysta, Lublin, 1987, p. 155, as part of the Rembrandts in the collection of Count Vincent Potocki (see Provenance).
W. Liedtke, Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007, p. 7, under note 7.
H. J. Beckmann, De verkoop van de schilderijenverzameling van Arnout Leers, heer van Ameide, schepen van de stad Rotterdam en directeur van de Levantsche handel, op 19 mei 1767 in herberg de Keizerskroon in de Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, PhD thesis, Utrecht, Utrecht University, 2008, p. 155, no. 101, listing the Leers sale and C. Hofstede de Groot reference.

Brought to you by

Maja Markovic
Maja Markovic Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay


Prior to their recent re-discovery, the last time this remarkable pair of portraits was seen in public was in June 1824 when offered for sale at Christie’s, described simply as ‘Rembrandt – very spirited and finely coloured’. Acquired in that sale on behalf of an ancestor of the present owners, the pair has remained in the same collection ever since, and in all that time has never been seen by scholars nor addressed in any of the vast corpus of Rembrandt literature. We now know a great deal about these portraits and about the sitters and their close relationship to Rembrandt’s family in Leiden. Their early history has also been unearthed, thus establishing a virtually unbroken line of provenance that charts their ownership from the sitters to the present day.

Having remained in obscurity for such a long time, the process of rehabilitation to Rembrandt has come about after extensive research and technical analysis undertaken by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in work led by Dr. Jonathan Bikker and Petria Noble. The addition of two new portraits to the Rembrandt corpus is highly significant, and while a small minority of scholars remain sceptical, the overwhelming majority are in full support of these extraordinary discoveries. Intimate in scale and virtuosic in their characteristic loose handling, the works shed new light on Rembrandt’s activity as a portraitist operating outside the mainstream, within his inner circle of friends and family. They are the only extant pair of portraits of family members of the artist, and the only pendant portraits still in private hands.

REMBRANDT IN 1635

Reliably signed and dated 1635, the portraits date from a transitional year in Rembrandt’s career, at the end of what is usually referred to as his ‘first Amsterdam Period’ between 1631 and 1635. During these years, working for the dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh, who was sourcing the majority of his commissions, Rembrandt produced about sixty portraits, far more than at any other stage in his career. In so doing, he completely eclipsed his rivals and cemented his reputation as a portraitist of unrivalled genius. His success gained him financial freedom and 1635 was the year in which he cut his ties with Uylenburgh and moved out of the studio to work independently. At the same time, he was devoting less and less of his energy to portraiture, no doubt fatigued by the sheer number of portraits he had been producing, and constrained artistically by their standard format and the demands of his patrons. He focused instead on expanding and aggrandising his repertoire with a number of highly ambitious history paintings. In 1635 alone he produced a series of masterpieces in quick succession, which included the Sacrifice of Isaac (St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum), Ganymede (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), Minerva (New York, Leiden Collection), Man in oriental dress (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), Flora, and Belshazzar’s Feast (both London, National Gallery).

Two other pairs of portraits are known from 1635 - Philips Lucasz; and Petronella Buys (London, National Gallery; and New York, Leiden Collection); and a Man; and Woman (Sakura, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art; and Cleveland Museum of Art). Ostensibly, the portraits of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels accord with these and with Rembrandt’s standard formula for painting married couples as pendant pairs in oval format: the sitters address the viewer frontally, with a slightly inward turn towards one other, and the man always on the left. Both sitters are almost invariably lit sharply from the left, dressed in black, their heads set off by white ruffs, and the woman wearing a form of headdress. Yet in many other respects, the pair under discussion constitute an intriguing departure from the norm. Their diminutive scale immediately sets them apart from his regular oval portraits, which typically measure between 60 and 75 cm. in height. Indeed, these are the smallest extant portraits by Rembrandt, painted with an intimacy and freedom that distinguishes them from the formal commissioned portraits for which he is better known, posing important questions about their original function.

THE SITTERS

Distantly related yet closely connected to Rembrandt, the wealthy Leiden plumber and slater Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym (c. 1565-1640) and his wife Jaapgen Carels (1565-1644) formed an integral part of the artist’s inner circle. The Van der Pluyms were a prominent family in Rembrandt’s home city of Leiden, where Jan and Jaapgen proclaimed their marriage banns on 12 April 1591 and produced seven children, four of whom would live into old age. In 1617, their eldest daughter, Machtelt van der Pluym (c. 1591-c. 1630) married Hendricus Swaerdecroon (c. 1594-c. 1665), who at around this time was deputy principal at the Latin School in Leiden, during the years that the young Rembrandt studied there. On 25 August 1624, their son Dominicus (1593-1661), at the age of 31, married Rembrandt’s first cousin, the 27-year-old Cornelia van Suytbroeck (1597-1652), daughter of the wealthy baker Cornelis Willemsz van Suytbroek, the brother of Rembrandt’s mother. Dominicus and Cornelia’s only heir, the artist Karel van der Pluym (1625-1672), is thought to have apprenticed with Rembrandt in around 1646 and he maintained a life-long relationship with the van Rijn family. Indeed, documents show that the two families enjoyed a close connection for decades, acting as a network of support through times of both joy and sorrow.

In the summer of 1635, the year Rembrandt captured their likenesses, Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels purchased a garden next to that of Rembrandt’s mother Neeltje in Leiden for 1,350 guilders, together with ‘all kinds of pottery’ (A. Bredius, ‘Karel van der Pluym: Neef en leerling van Rembrandt’, Oud Holland, XLVIII, 1931, p. 248). Their contiguity would be short-lived, however, as in 1640, Rembrandt’s mother would pass, leaving Dominicus van der Plyum as the guardian and executor of Rembrandt’s younger sister Lijsbeth (C. Hofstede de Groot, Die Urkunden über Rembrandt, III, The Hauge, 1906, p. 36, no. 36). He and his father Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym would also be present as witnesses at the final account of Neeltje’s deceased estate with Rembrandt and his siblings (ibid., p. 87, no. 82).

At the time of his presumed apprenticeship with Rembrandt, Karel may have lodged in Amsterdam with Jan and Jaapgen’s son Willem (1596-1675), who was well acquainted with the van Rijn household. Rembrandt captured his likeness in 1634 in one of his most finished portrait drawings (New York, Private collection; fig. 1), which, according to his inventory, Willem hung proudly in a frame at the front of his home on the Kloveniersburgwal, where the present portraits were recorded in 1671 (op. cit.). On 3 June 1665, he would also undersign the nearly 24-year-old Titus, still a minor, in his application for veniam aetatis (legal maturity), the lack of which he considered a hindrance in his business dealings (Hofstede de Groot, Die Urkunden, pp. 329-31, no. 271). Karel, in a similar vein, acted as a trustee for Titus on 5 February of 1665, when Rembrandt, heir to half of the estate of Pieter Claesz. van Medenblick, authorised his underage son to collect the inheritance on his behalf (ibid., pp. 327-8, no. 269).

Although both Rembrandt and his son Titus predeceased him, in his will of 31 July 1662, Karel van der Pluym stated that should his wife die childless, Titus would receive 3,000 guilders, with the same amount bequeathed to the children of Rembrandt’s deceased brother Adriaen van Rijn (Bredius, op. cit., pp. 253-4), who had incidentally been appointed guardian of the ten-year-old Karel in 1635 (‘‘Cousin’ Karel van der Pluym and the Benefit of Family’, Rembrandt’s Social Network: Family, Friends and Acquaintances, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, 2019, p. 62). His evident affection for the van Rijn family was further detailed by Marieke de Winkel in an unpublished codicil, which Karel dictated in 1668 to his friend, the notary Arent Joachimsz Raven, days after Titus’ death (ibid., p. 65). In it, Karel firstly showed his sympathy to Titus’ bride Magdalena van Loo (1641-1669), giving her a bond valued at 4,000 guilders as a financial security for her and their unborn child. To his ‘old cousin’ Rembrandt, de Winkel writes, ‘“for good reasons” he bequeathed the sum of one hundred guilders a year, for life’ (loc. cit.).

The likenesses of our sitters were historically known through two life-sized, three-quarter-length portraits (now in Washington, D.C., American University Museum; and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; figs. 2 and 3), whose identities were first correctly proposed as those of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym and Jaapgen Carels by the Amsterdam archivist Isabella Henriette van Eeghen in 1977 (‘Willem Jansz. van der Pluym en Rembrandt’, Amstelodamum: Maandblad voor de kennis van Amsterdam, LXIV, no. 1, January-February 1977, pp. 6-13). In her article, van Eeghen posited this theory on the basis that they were sold in the 1760 sale of the sitters’ descendant, Marten ten Hove (see Provenance of the present pictures), and catalogued as by Rembrandt, with the woman inscribed with a date of 1635 and aged 70, and the man aged 69. However, as scholars deemed the woman’s portrait as the work of an apprentice, and the man not even of Rembrandt’s school, doubt persisted as to their natural pairing after their separation in the nineteenth century. According to van Eeghen, however, the fact remained that on 27 March 1635, Jaapgen Carels travelled to Amsterdam from Leiden for the baptism of her grand-daughter Machtelt in the Nieuwe Kerk, presuming that her husband had also attended the ceremony. Considering their marriage of 44 years, she thought it plausible that those could be their ages, and could theoretically see in the portraits, ‘without the slightest hesitation’, the wealthy Leiden plumber and his wife (ibid., p. 11). Prof. Volker Manuth and Marieke de Winkel, to whom we are grateful, were the first to point out the identities of the sitters in relation to the larger portraits. Jonathan Bikker has observed that as both sets of portraits appeared in the Marten ten Hove sale, the sitters must have been family members. Furthermore, the discovery of an unpublished document reported Jaapgen’s age as 22 in a 1587 life annuity purchased by her father, Karel Dominicus (Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken, Lijfrentenregisters, Leiden, document no. 2063, 1587), thus conclusively establishing Jaapgen’s identity, and by extension, Jan’s.

INNER CIRCLE

The closeness of the relationship between artist and sitters offers some explanation for the intimate, ad vivum character of the portraits and their small scale. Whether painted as gifts or sold privately, the pictures clearly had a personal function, quite different from a typical Uylenburgh commission. As a portraitist, Rembrandt was in intense demand from a growing number of merchants, scholars and figures in authority who were wealthy enough to afford him. However, aside from the main Uylenburgh business, we know that Rembrandt also painted a small number of portraits for a select few within his inner circle. As Jaap van de Veen has noted ‘several members of Uylenburgh’s family – or of Rembrandt’s family – bought or were presented with a painted portrait’ (J. van de Veen, Uylenburgh & Son – Art and Commerce from Rembrandt to De Lairesse 1625-1675, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle, 2006, p. 137). The 1632 Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, who was the first cousin of the artist’s wife Saskia, is a notable and exceptionally high quality example (Boston Museum). Saskia’s elder sister Titia was drawn by Rembrandt in 1639 (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum; Benesch 441), and her brother-in-law Anthonie Coopal sat for a portrait in 1635 (New York, Leiden Collection). Professor Ernst van de Wetering shared the same view: ‘Rembrandt must also have painted a number of friends’, citing several portraits from the 1650s, including Jeremias de Decker (St. Petersburg, Hermitage Mueum), and Arnout Tholincx (Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André). Such portraits, he observed, ‘were normally of a smaller format than portraits painted on commission for wealthy citizens’ (Rembrandt: The Painter Thinking, Amsterdam, 2016, p. 318).

Although Rembrandt painted on a small scale in the production of tronies and certain subject pictures, he rarely adopted such a small format for his portraits. His own rapidly painted 1632 Self-Portrait, a panel measuring 21.8 x 16.3 cm., is one example, the function of which, like this pair, may have been as a personal gift or keepsake (Private collection; formerly Sotheby’s, London, 28 July 2020, lot 12, £14.5 million; fig. 4). In the same year, working for a short time in The Hague, Rembrandt produced two other small portraits of sitters with whom he was closely connected: Maurits Huygens, the brother of Contantijn, and Jacques de Gheyn, who owned several early works by the artist, their high level of finish appropriate to each of the sitters’ affluence and high status (Hamburg, Kunsthalle; and London, Dulwich Picture Gallery; both 30 x 24.5 cm.). The portraits of Jan and Jaapgen, which are rougher in execution, share closer stylistic affinities with some of Rembrandt’s earlier, vigorously rendered tronies, such as his Bust of an Old Man (circa 1630, Private collection; see E. van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, VI, Dordrecht, 2015, p. 97, no. 36; fig. 5), or the grisaille Bust of an old Man painted in 1633, the support not much bigger than an American baseball card (10.6 x 7.2 cm.; New York, Leiden Collection; fig. 6). In this respect, they also recall the portrait style of Frans Hals, who was painting so successfully on this scale in the years around 1630, as seen for example in the Portrait of Samuel Ampzing (16.2 x12.3 cm; New York, Leiden Collection; fig. 7).

Working on this restricted format, rather than adapting and tightening his style, Rembrandt employed much the same expressive range of brushstrokes that he used in his larger work. As Petria Noble has observed, this can be demonstrated by a stylistic comparison of the portrait of Jan with that of the 83 year old Portrait of Aechje Claesdr, painted a year earlier (London, National Gallery; fig. 8). Both sitters are acutely observed; every line and wrinkle in their faces painted with a relish that suggest the artist considered this kind of ‘rough’ technique particularly effective in describing old age. Other than Aechje, Jan and Jaapgen were the oldest people to sit to Rembrandt up until this point in his career. Such free handling of paint on a small scale at first glance gives a sketch-like impression. However, stylistic analysis and close observation reveals how the paint was built up in layers, applied in a variety of colours, using short, curved and jagged brushstrokes, crossed, blended and rendered with rapidity, wet into wet. Other than Rembrandt, no Dutch artist at the time possessed the facility to handle paint with such assurance and fluidity.

The directness of observation and spontaneous nature of the execution make it clear that the portraits were executed from life, if not in a single sitting, then over a short space of time. Changes were made to the design of both during painting and various pentimenti are visible to the naked eye: the shape of the ruff worn by Jaapgen has been adapted significantly on the left and right, indicating that she might have originally been posed more frontally, and the contour of her headdress slightly reduced at the top. Jan’s collar has similarly been scaled back slightly on the left. The two portraits were probably executed separately one after the other. Dendrochronological analysis has established that the two Baltic oak panels were cut from different pieces of wood (Ian Tyres, Dendrochronology Report, April 2021, available upon request). Jaapgen’s panel, which is appreciably thinner than Jan’s, is from a tree with a felling date after circa 1551, which can only be broadly dated due to the limited number of tree rings available, while’s Jan’s is from a younger tree with a felling date of after circa 1620. Intriguingly, the tree ring sequence of the latter provides a close match with a panel used by Rembrandt’s pupil Gerrit Dou for the Scholar in his Study, also dateable to 1635 (New York, Leiden Collection). Dou entered Rembrandt’s Leiden studio in 1628 at the age of fourteen and remained there for around three years until his master’s departure for Amsterdam. The two artists must have stayed in close contact, with the panel match suggesting that Jan was painted in his native Leiden using a locally sourced support. Although Rembrandt is not documented in Leiden at this time, and had little time to travel to and from Amsterdam, given his onerous workload, he must have occasionally made the 40km journey, not least to visit his parents. As mentioned above, in 1635 Jan bought a garden next to that of Rembrandt’s mother in Zoeterwoude, giving further indication of the close physical contact between the two families at this time. In the same way, it can be assumed that the sitters made occasional trips to Amsterdam, with Jaapgen, as mentioned above, documented there in March 1635 at the baptism of her grand-daughter Machtelt. The portable nature of the panels meant that they could easily have been carried to-and-fro.

If the two sittings took place separately, at different times and perhaps in different cities, it is not surprising that there exist some material and stylistic anomalies between the two pictures. Jan is certainly painted more loosely and energetically than his wife and shown from a more advanced viewpoint. Jaapgen is set back slightly deeper in the picture plane, her head somewhat smaller. The differences between the two are perhaps made even more apparent on account of condition, with the painting of Jaapgen’s face less well preserved. Both panels have been roughly sawn with remnants of bevelling. As Petria Noble has pointed out, the supports of both portraits were initially rectangular and made into ovals before they were painted (the background paint in the portrait of Jan not extending all the way to the left edge). In both portraits, the vigorous brushwork in the backgrounds follows the oval formats. After painting, Jan's portrait was trimmed along the right edge and Jaapgen’s along both left and right edges. The presence of a second cut-off signature (lower right) lends weight to the idea.

How these portraits functioned in relation to the larger versions in New York and Washington remains unclear. The portrait of Jaapgen in New York was considered in its own right by the Rembrandt Research Project, who deemed it a studio picture showing ‘such differences from his [Rembrandt’s] handling of paint that an attribution to him is impossible to accept’, while the portrait of Jan in Washington, they considered ‘not at all rembrandtesque [sic]’ and ‘quite different from that of the New York woman's portrait’ (A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, III, Dordrecht, Boston and London, 1989, no. C112). Jonathan Bikker does not think they are necessarily by different hands, blaming the poor condition of the Washington picture for the disjuncture. Either way, both he and Petria Noble believes they are both essentially copies that originated from outside the Rembrandt studio, with obvious differences, particularly in the frontal pose of Jaapgen. They note that certain aspects of the oval originals were misinterpreted in the large versions, for example the reflection of the collar on Jaapgen's cheek, which was transformed into wrinkles, making a strong argument that indicates they must have been painted after the ovals. The fact that the large versions were in the same ten Hove sale in 1760 suggests they were commissioned from within the family.

PROVENANCE

While the early history of the portraits before their sale in 1824 remained a mystery, a virtually unbroken line of provenance can now be established with certainty, charting their journey from the sitters, through their descendants and to the present day. The pair are first recorded in the posthumous inventory of Jan and Jaapgen’s daughter, Catharina van der Pluym, dated 17 February 1671. Catharina died a widow to her second husband Willem van Schilperoort (1606-1668), who was Mayor of Leiden. As she was childless, her estate was left to multiple family members, including her brother Willem Jansz. van der Pluym, who transported her goods and effects to his home on the Kloveniersburgwal. In the inventory, before the notary de Winter, the present pendants were recorded as ‘twee ovael kontrefeijtsels van een man ende vrouw, tien gulden ƒ 10’ (‘two oval portraits of a man and a woman, ten guilders ƒ 10’; Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, archive 2410, fol. 100-111, film no. 2551; fig. 9). While the artist was not named, the description of all the paintings, with only one exception, remained anonymous, with these being the only pair of portraits in her collection (and indeed with only one other portrait painting listed). Incidentally, also listed was ‘een stuck van Ganimedes ƒ 7’, which Abraham Bredius suggested might be connected to Rembrandt’s The Rape of Ganymede, also of 1635 (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister; op. cit., 1931, p. 262).

Her brother Willem, who had long settled in Amsterdam as a plumber and slater like his father, inherited half of a house from him on the Steenschuur in Leiden, which Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym had purchased on 20 June 1640, after the death of his wife Jaapgen on 20 March of that year. While the inventory of Jan’s estate on 5 June 1645 was not itemised, Willem most likely inherited the two three-quarter-length portraits of the present sitters. Of his descendants, his daughter Maria would predecease him, leaving behind her husband Hendrik ten Hove, whom Willem disliked immensely – so much so that on 30 May 1664, he drew up a new testament stipulating that Hendrik would never receive anything in the salvation of his estate (I. E. van Eeghen, ‘Willem Jansz. van der Pluym en Rembrandt’, Amstelodamum: Maandblad voor de kennis van Amsterdam, LXIV, no. 1, January-February 1977, p. 9). Yet on his deathbed, on 22 July 1675, Willem changed his will, having seemingly grown very fond of Hendrick and Maria’s children. He reduced his behest to instead leave them various family heirlooms, previously intended for his daughter Machtelt, including the portrait drawing of him by Rembrandt and eleven paintings, both large and small, to be kept ‘in honour and remembrance of his family’ (loc. cit.). Among such prized paintings must have been the present portraits, which would be proven true by subsequent events; inherited by Willem’s grandson and godson (and namesake), Willem ten Hove (b. 1658), they passed to his son, Marten (1684-1759), who lived as a wealthy wine buyer in Amsterdam. On 29 November 1758, Marten stipulated that his two children, Elisabeth Maria and Daniel Willem, not sell any of his household effects, but rather share them evenly (ibid., p. 10). But the request would fall on deaf ears, as on 8 April 1760, his collection and that of Jean François Tourton went to auction, where the present portraits were sold as lots 8 and 9, and the three-quarter-lengths as 1 and 2, all acquired by the Amsterdam dealer Pieter Yver.

Active in the years 1730–1770, Yver was one of the chief antiquarians and organisers of auctions in the Netherlands and a respected connoisseur, writing catalogues on both paintings and engravings, including one on those of Rembrandt. While it is unknown exactly to whom Yver sold the works, it may plausibly have been Arnould Leers, whose collection they subsequently entered some time thereafter. Leers, who was Lord of Amyden and Alderman of the city of Rotterdam, amassed impressive collections of paintings, shells and naturalia over a period of 40 years, which were auctioned off a year after his death in 1767 (Beckmann, op. cit., p. 2). Rembrandt’s portraits sold in Leers’ sale for the sum of 65 guilders to an unknown buyer.

Following Amsterdam, the panels were next firmly recorded in Warsaw in the collection of the Polish noble Count Vincent Potocki. While only supposition can be made as to how the paintings travelled to the city, a plausible theory can be posited. In documents lost during the Second World War (yet mentioned by earlier scholars), Pieter Yver appeared as the Amsterdam broker of Stanislaus August Poniatowski II, King of Poland (see E. Manikowska, ‘Acquiring Paintings for the Polish Court: King Stanislaw August (1764-1795) and his Dealers’, Art Auctions and Dealers: The Dissemination of Netherlandish Art during the Ancien Régime, Turnhout, 2009, pp. 119-20). In 1771, Yver was tasked by the court’s mediators with viewing works in the auctions of the collections of Bisschop of Rotterdam and Braamcamp of Amsterdam, the latter for whom Yver would on occasion make purchases at auction. While nothing comparable to the present ovals appeared in the Bisschop sale, Braamcamp’s in Amsterdam listed ‘A man and woman's portrait at half length’ by Rembrandt. The purchaser was Pieter’s son Jan, whom he had at this point taken under his wing and would groom to succeed him as agent to Stanislaus August and other young Polish nobles. While it must be left to conjecture as to whether the present works were one and the same as those described in Braamcamp’s possession, his have thus far evaded identification, with only a handful of other known pendant portraits by Rembrandt offered at auction between 1760 and 1781. Those that were, cannot be connected with the present pair. It is thus plausible that Pieter Yver, familiar with the quality of the panels, having acquired them himself in 1760, purchased them in the Braamcamp sale with his son Jan, either on behalf of Count Potocki or to sell to him shortly thereafter.

The illustrious Count Vincent Potocki was Grand Chamberlain to the king and cousin-german to Maria Leszczynski, wife of Louis XV and former queen of France. Failing to sell the works in his Warsaw sale of 1771, he subsequently kept them in his collection until 1820, when he offered them again in Paris, this time selling to the collector Jean-Baptiste Marie Roslin, Baron d'Ivry (1775-1839), later a baron of the empire. Roslin, whose forebears were connected to François Boucher’s patronage circle and likely commissioned his Shepherd's Idyll of 1786 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), no doubt held the paintings at the family Château d'Hénonville, near Beauvais. Shortly thereafter, they entered the collection of James Murray, 1st Baron Glenlyon (1782-1837), who sold them in these Rooms in 1824, where they were acquired by the ancestors of the present owners.

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