© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

According to an early biographer, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout was Rembrandt’s “great friend and favorite pupil.” He was also the most versatile draftsman among Rembrandt’s students and close followers. His two hundred surviving drawings, executed in a wide range of media, represent biblical compositions, genre scenes, portraits, figure studies, landscapes, and designs for book illustrations, ornamental engravings, and goldsmith work. Woman Doing Handwork belongs to a group of about 18 drawings, similarly executed with the brush in finely graduated tones of brown wash, that are remarkable for their delicate, economical technique and contemplative mood. Except for a sheet with three studies of a dog, all of them represent single figures. Seated or reclining, they read, smoke, perform simple household tasks, daydream, or stare intently at the viewer.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
25.1998.55
People
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Dutch (Amsterdam, Netherlands 1621 - 1674 Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Title
Woman Doing Handwork; verso: Landscape [by a later hand]
Other Titles
Alternate Title: A Woman Sewing
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1655
Culture
Dutch
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink and brown wash on cream antique laid paper; verso: red chalk
Dimensions
17.9 x 14.6 cm (7 1/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: lower left, red ink, stamp: L. 1508 (John Postle Heseltine)
  • collector's mark: lower left, black ink, stamp: L. 1450 (Jacob de Vos Jacobszoon)
  • collector's mark: former mount, black ink, stamp: L. 2811b (Carl Robert Rudolf)
  • inscription: verso, lower left, graphite: d.J / N62 / Mol
  • clipping: cut out from sale catalogue, inserted into current mat: G. VAN DER EECKHOUT / 222. Une Femme qui file du lin; chef-d'oeuvre; a l'encre / brune

    in brown ink on label: Coll. van Cranenburgh, 1858 f r.t.
  • collector's mark: verso, lower left, blue ink stamp: L. 3306 (Maida and George Abrams)
  • inscription: verso, lower left, graphite: J. 4898
  • watermark: fragment of a foolscap with a seven-pointed collar
Provenance
H. van Cranenburgh, Amsterdam, sold; [Roos and De Vries, Amsterdam, 26 October 1858 and following days, port. I, lot 223]; to De Vries. Jacob de Vos Jacobszoon, Amsterdam (L. 1450, lower left), sold; [Van Dijk, Amsterdam, 22-24 May 1883, lot 163, erroneously citing lot 222 in the Cranenburgh sale]; to [Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau, London]. John Postle Heseltine, London (L. 1508, lower left), sold; [Sotheby’s, London, 27-29 May 1935, lot 166]; to Frits Lugt, traded 1 January 1936; to Carl Robert Rudolf, London (L. 2811b, former mount), sold; via E. Jacobs to Maida and George Abrams, 1975 (L. 3306, verso, lower left); The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Promised Gift, 25.1998.55
Published Text
Catalogue
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
Authors
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Publisher
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 32 by William W. Robinson:

Woman Doing Handwork belongs to a group of seventeen or eighteen drawings by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout that are similarly executed with the brush in delicately graduated tones of brown wash.1 Except for a sheet with three studies of a dog, all of them represent single figures. Seated or reclining, they read, smoke, perform simple household tasks, daydream, or stare intently at the viewer. Only two depict women: the present example and a study of the same model operating a spinning wheel (Fig. 1).2

Remarkable for their delicate, economical technique, distinctive mise-en-page, and contemplative mood, these singular drawings rank among the outstanding figure studies produced by any Dutch artist in the seventeenth century. Yet none of them are signed or attributable on the basis of a direct connection to a painting or print. Drawings in this group have been ascribed to the Rembrandt pupils Van den Eeckhout, Ferdinand Bol, and Nicolaes Maes; the genre specialists Johannes Vermeer, Gerard ter Borch, Mozes ter Borch, Caspar Netscher, and Quirijn van Brekelenkam; and even to the eighteenth-century French master Jean-Honoré Fragonard.3 The earliest references to them are in the catalogues of two Dutch auction sales of the 1770s, where they are assigned to Van den Eeckhout.4 Two of the drawings were reproduced in facsimile engravings by Jurriaan Cootwijck (1714–1798) and published as works by Van den Eeckhout in Christian Josi’s Collection d’imitations de dessins (1821). Finally, as Werner Sumowski and Jane Turner have emphasized, formal and technical features relate these studies to paintings and drawings securely assigned to the artist.5

Van den Eeckhout’s broad, pictorial execution and sensitivity to the reserved areas of the sheet recall Rembrandt’s brush drawing Study of Hendrickje Sleeping (c. 1655).6 A date in the 1650s was also proposed for Van den Eeckhout’s studies until Marieke de Winkel, an authority on seventeenth-century costume, observed that the clothing worn by a youth in one sheet indicated a later origin, around 1670, which could extend to the whole group.7 Peter Schatborn detected the influence on Van den Eeckhout’s drawings of the studies in brush and brown wash by the lawyer and amateur draftsman Jan de Bisschop (see 1999.129) .8

The handwork performed by the woman in the Harvard drawing is not clearly represented and has been identified as sewing, knitting, and crocheting.9 While she is most likely knitting, Van den Eeckhout depicted only one needle.10

Notes

1 Werner Sumowski (Drawings of the Rembrandt School, New York, 1979, vol. 3, cats. 782x–797x) catalogued sixteen brush drawings in this group. Boy Carrying a Basket in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, (Annette Strech, with Jutta Schütt, Martin Sonnabend, and Margaret Stuffmann, “Nach dem Leben und aus der Phantasie”: Niederländische Zeichnungen vom 15. bis 18. Jahrhundert aus dem Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main: Städelsches Kunstinstitut, cat. 49), also certainly belongs to this group. Bearded Figure Wearing a Turban and a Fur Coat (sale, Christie’s, Amsterdam, 10 November 1999, lot 337) was attributed to Van den Eeckhout in the catalogue of the sale and might also belong to the group. Jane Turner and Felice Stampfle, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries (New York, 2006), vol. 1, p. 65.

2 Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Woman Spinning (Fig. 1). Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, RP-T-1899-A-4304. Brown wash; 169 × 143 mm. Sumowski, vol. 3, cat. 795x.

3 Sumowski, vol. 3, p. 1686.

4 Turner and Stampfle, vol. 1, p. 65.

5 Sumowski, vol. 3, pp. 1686–87. Turner and Stampfle, vol. 1, p. 65.

6 Holm Bevers in Holm Bevers, Lee Hendrix, William W. Robinson, and Peter Schatborn, Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009), under cat. 17, pp. 122–23, and Peter Schatborn, Rembrandt and His Circle: Drawings in the Frits Lugt Collection (Bussum, Netherlands, 2010), vol. 1, p. 186.

7 Holm Bevers in Bevers et al., under cat. 17, p. 123; Holm Bevers, “[Review] Peter Schatborn, Rembrandt and His Pupils: Drawings in the Frits Lugt Collection,” Master Drawings, vol. 50, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 397–408, under cat. 69, pp. 404–5.

8 Schatborn, vol. 1, p. 186. Schatborn disagreed with Jane Turner (Turner and Stampfle, vol. 1, p. 65), who argued that De Bisschop emulated Van den Eeckhout’s technique.

9 In the collections of Jacob de Vos Jacobszoon, John Postle Heseltine, and Carl Robert Rudolf, it was entitled Woman Knitting, as it was in the publications of Sumowski, vol. 3, cat. 796x, and George Abrams, “Collectors and Collecting,” in Drawings Defined (New York, 1987): 415–29, p. 422. Arthur Mayger Hind, Catalogue of Drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Vol. 1, Drawings by Rembrandt and His School (London, 1915), p. 51, first referred to the woman’s activity as sewing, as did Franklin Robinson (Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; Denver: Denver Art Museum; Fort Worth, TX: Kimbell Art Museum, 1977, p. 64), and I repeated Robinson’s title in William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet; Vienna: Albertina; New York: Pierpont Morgan Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1991), p. 128. In “Letters to the Editor,” Harvard Magazine, November–December 1992 and January–February 1993, various correspondents asserted that the woman is knitting. For the identification of her activity as crocheting, see William Robinson in Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection. London: British Museum; Paris: Institut Néerlandais; Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, 2002), cat. 50, pp. 126–27.

10 Fronia E. Wissman, “Knitting and Fine Art: Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Woman Doing Handwork,” Interweave Knits (Winter 2007), p. 10.

Figures
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Promised Gift
Object Number
25.1998.55
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Arthur Mayger Hind, Catalogue of Drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Vol I: Drawings by Rembrandt and His School, British Museum (London, England, 1915), vol. 1, under cat. no. 145, p. 51

Karl T. Parker and James Byam Shaw, Drawings by Old Masters, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts (London, 1953), cat. no. 332, p. 81

C. R. Rudolf, Old Master Drawings from the Collection of Mr. C. R. Rudolf, Arts Council of Great Britain, London (London, England, 1962), cat. no. 98, p. 20

Wolfgang Wegner, Die niederlandischen Handzeichnungen des 15.-18. Jahrhunderts (Katalogue der Staatlichen Graphischen Sammlung, Munchen), Mann (Berlin, Germany, 1973), vol. 1, under cat. no. 1216, p. 178

A.W.F.M. Meij, ed., Dessins flamands et hollandais du dix-septième siècle: collections Musées de Belgique, Musée Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Institut Néerlandais, Paris, exh. cat., Institut Néerlandais (Paris, 1974), under cat. no. 33, pp. 48-49

Franklin W. Robinson, Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, exh. cat., International Exhibitions Foundation (Washington, D.C, 1977), cat. no. 61, pp. 64-65, repr.

Rembrandt and His Century: Dutch drawings of the seventeenth century from the collection of Frits Lugt, exh. cat., Pierpont Morgan Library (New York, 1978), under cat. no. 35, pp. 54-55

Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, ed. Walter Strauss, Abaris Books (New York, NY, 1979), vol. 3, cat. no. 796x, pp. 1714-15, repr. p. 1715, and under cat. nos. 782x, p. 1686, and 795x, p. 1712

William W. Robinson, "[Review] Werner Sumoski: Drawings of the Rembrandt School, vols. 1-3", Master Drawings (Autumn 1982), vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 280-285, p. 285

George Abrams, "Collectors and Collecting", Drawings Defined, ed. Walter Strauss, Abaris Books (New York, 1987), pp. 415-429, p. 422, repr. fig. 7

William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., H. O. Zimman, Inc. (Lynn, MA, 1991), cat. no. 55, pp. 128-9, repr.

George S. Keyes, "[Review] Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings. A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection", Master Drawings (Winter 1992), vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 443-448, p. 446

Daniel Gross, "Dutch Treats", Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, September-October 1992), vol. 95, no. 1, pp. 41-45, p. 42, repr. cover and p. 3 (detail)

Mària van Berge-Gerbaud, Rembrandt et son école: Dessins de la collection Frits Lugt, exh. cat., Fondation Custodia (Paris, 1997), under cat. no. 58, p. 132 (n. 1)

Dutch, Flemish, and German Old Master Drawings, auct. cat. (Amsterdam, November 10, 1999), under lot 337, p. 27

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 51, repr. (color)

Seymour Slive, "Collecting 17th-century Dutch art in the United States: the current boom", Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum (2001), vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 84-99, p. 97 (n. 11)

William W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 50, pp. 126-27 and 257-58, repr.

Jeanne Faton, "Entretien avec George Abrams: Dessins de l'âge d'or hollandais", L'Estampille/L'Objet d'art (April 2003), no. 379, pp. 46-55, repr. p. 51

Michiel C. Plomp, "[Review] Bruegel to Rembrandt. Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection.", Oud Holland (2004), vol. 117, no. 1/2, pp. 99-102, p. 101 (n. 3)

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2002-2003 (Cambridge, MA, 2004), repr. p. 41

Jane Turner and Felice Stampfle, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Pierpont Morgan Library (New York, 2006), vol. 1, under cat. no. 73, p. 65 (n. 1)

Fronia E. Wissman, "Knitting and Fine Art: Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Woman Doing Handwork", Interweave Knits (Winter 2007), p. 10, repr.

Holm Bevers, Lee Hendrix, William W. Robinson, and Peter Schatborn, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils: Telling the Difference, exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, 2009), under cat. no. 16.2, p. 123 (notes 1 and 7)

Catalogue of Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the British Museum, website, British Museum, 2010, under cat. no. Eeckhout.9

Peter C. Sutton and William W. Robinson, Drawings by Rembrandt, his Students and Circle from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Bruce Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2011), cat. no. 35, pp. 11, 32 and 108-9, repr.

Stijn Alsteens, [Review] William W. Robinson, with Susan Anderson, "Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums", Master Drawings (Winter 2015), LIII, no. 4, pp. 531-534, pp. 531-532

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), pp. 20-21; cat. no. 32, pp. 121-123, repr. p. 122

Exhibition History

Drawings by Old Masters, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 08/13/1953 - 10/25/1953

Old Master Drawings from the Collection of Mr. C. R. Rudolf, Arts Council Gallery, London, London, 01/05/1962 - 02/03/1962; City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 02/17/1962 - 03/11/1962; Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, 03/17/1962 - 04/07/1962

Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/30/1977 - 03/13/1977; Denver Art Museum, Denver, 04/01/1977 - 05/15/1977; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 06/01/1977 - 07/15/1977

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 02/23/1991 - 04/18/1991; Albertina Gallery, Vienna, 05/16/1991 - 06/30/1991; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 01/22/1992 - 04/22/1992; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/10/1992 - 12/06/1992

A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions of Prints and Drawings from 1480 to 1940, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/25/2000 - 07/02/2000

Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, British Museum, London, 06/13/2002 - 09/22/2002; Institut Néerlandais, Paris, 10/10/2002 - 12/08/2002; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/22/2003 - 07/06/2003

Drawings by Rembrandt, his Students and Circle from the Collection of Maida and George Abrams, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, 09/24/2011 - 01/08/2012; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 04/15/2012 - 07/08/2012

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu