Jacques de Gheyn II, A Roma Woman with a Child, c. 1604. Brown ink and black chalk. The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Promised Gift, 25.1998.10. Photo: © President and Fellows of Harvard College. © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This sensitive study belongs to a small group of pen and ink drawings of Roma women and children by De Gheyn II. Since the Roma ommunity had been banished from Dutch towns, the artist probably observed his subjects in the countryside around Leiden or The Hague. In this drawing, the mother tenderly gazes at her child who, barefoot and disheveled, tightly grasps her left hand. This gentle moment is rendered in De Gheyn’s exuberant pen manner, which depicts form and texture through the combination of rounded parallel hatches as well as spiraling and zigzagging strokes. The artist developed his mature pen technique by emulating the drawings of his teacher Hendrick Goltzius (such as Seated Woman, displayed nearby). Unlike Goltzius, who used the elaborate technique to produce an imaginary composition, De Gheyn here employed it to illustrate an episode based on direct observation. The study derives much of its visual impact from this remarkable blend of naturalism and artifice.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jacques de Gheyn II, Dutch (Antwerp, Netherlands 1565 - 1629 The Hague, Netherlands)
A Roma Woman with a Child
Work Type
c. 1604
Physical Descriptions
Brown ink and black chalk on light tan antique laid paper
16.2 x 13.1 cm (6 3/8 x 5 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lower left, brown ink: J:d:Gijn f
  • inscription: verso, lower left, brown ink: gheyn
  • collector's mark: verso, lower center, blue ink stamp: L. 3306 (Maida and George Abrams)
  • inscription: verso, upper right, underneath mount: DE GHEYN
  • watermark: none
Comtesse B. B. de Maigret. [Adolphe Stein, Switzerland], sold; to Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1981 (L. 3306, verso, lower center); The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Promised Gift, 25.1998.10
Published Text
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 39 by William W. Robinson:

This touching image belongs to a group of four closely related studies by De Gheyn, executed in the same media and on similar paper, of Roma women and children (Fig. 1).1 De Gheyn worked on a coarse, fibrous paper in gallnut ink over a preliminary sketch in black chalk, from which the pen work departs in places. With its profuse, rhythmic zigzags and long, curvilinear strokes that evoke the swelling forms of the woman’s skirt and cape, the study exemplifies his mature technique, which derives from pen drawings of the 1590s by Hendrick Goltzius.2

The Roma migrated from India and arrived in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. In the Netherlands they were known as “heathens” and, because of their supposed country of origin, “Egyptians,” a misconception from which the English “gypsy” derives.3 Due to their unconventional dress, language, and customs, as well as their disregard for local ordinances, they were banished from the towns and condemned to a marginal life of wandering and camping in the countryside.4 During the 1590s, scholars at the University of Leiden studied the language and customs of the Roma—an interest that De Gheyn, with his close connections to the university, evidently shared.5

De Gheyn’s studies culminated in two prints designed, but not engraved, by him. His drawings objectively record the distinctive clothing and physiognomies of the Roma, and the tender solicitude of the mother in the Harvard sheet, who wears the cape and headdress typical of Roma costume, attests to the draftsman’s empathy for his exotic subjects. However, the prints—like works by Hendrick Avercamp, Jan Miense Molenaer, Georges de la Tour, and other artists of the early seventeenth century—cast them in their conventional roles as social outcasts who survived by deceit, begging, and petty crimes. In one engraving after De Gheyn, four Roma women and two children stop on a road near a farmhouse to prepare a meal. The farmer and his wife watch them suspiciously from their property, while their dog approaches the strangers, snarling aggressively.6 The other print depicts an expensively dressed Dutch woman, who pays a disheveled Roma crone to tell her fortune (Fig. 2).7 It is one of the earliest of many seventeenth-century Dutch works that feature a Roma fortune teller.8 The text beneath the image does not address the social stigma of the Roma, but rather deplores the gullibility of the young woman: instead of consulting a surgeon about her malady, she resorts to a fortune teller to “hear those things from the future that she wishes to hear.”9 De Gheyn based the figure of the boy at the right edge of the engraving on the youth he had sketched in the Chicago drawing (see Fig. 1), the only detail among the four surviving studies that he translated directly into a print. The engraving, attributed to Andries Jacobsz. Stock, dates from about 1608, but De Gheyn probably executed the four studies of Roma women and children a few years earlier.10 Van Regteren Altena noted that Hendrick Goudt drew an exact copy of the boy in the Chicago drawing.11 If Goudt copied the figure before he departed, probably in 1604, for a protracted sojourn in Rome, the Chicago sheet and the other three studies of Roma women and children must date from that year at the latest.12


1 Jacques de Gheyn II, Two Studies of a Roma Woman and a Roma Boy in a Large Hat (Fig. 1). Brown ink over black chalk. 227 × 259 mm. Art Institute of Chicago, 1959.2. I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn: Three Generations (The Hague, Boston, and London, 1983), vol. 2, cat. II 535, p. 88. The other two drawings are ibid., cats. II 536–37, p. 88.

2 An example, dated 1596, of the type of Goltzius drawing that De Gheyn emulated is in the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston. See William W. Robinson, 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. 23, pp. 70–71, repr.

3 J. A. Poot in A. Th. van Deursen, Emil Karel Josef Reznicek, et al., Jacques de Gheyn II, 1565–1629: Drawings (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen; Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1985), under cat. 63, p. 68.

4 Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, p. 89; J. A. Poot in Van Deursen et al., under cat. 63, p. 68; Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York, 1987) pp. 595–96; Cynthia von Bogendorf Rupprath in Pieter Biesboer and Martina Sitt, Von Frans Hals bis Jan Steen: vergnügliches Leben, verborgene Lust: holländische Gesellschaftsszenen (Haarlem: Frans Hals Museum; Hamburg: Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2003), under cat. 30, pp. 146–49.

5 Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, p. 89; J. A. Poot in Van Deursen et al., under cat. 63, p. 68.

6 Carlos van Hasselt and Mària van Berge-Gerbaud, Le héraut du dix‑septième siècle: Dessins et gravures de Jacques de Gheyn II et III de la Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt (Paris: Institut Néerlandais, 1985), cat. 43, p. 82. The verses beneath this print acknowledge the plight of the Roma as religious refugees harried from their native soil and forced to live among uncouth country people in foreign lands.

7 Andries Jacobsz. Stock(?), after Jacques de Gheyn II, The Fortune Teller (Fig. 2). Engraving. 304 × 206 mm. London, The British Museum, 1873,0809.469. Jan Piet Filedt Kok and Marjolein Leesberg in New Hollstein, De Gheyn Family, part 2, no. 154, p, 233, dated to circa 1608. The model for the engraving is in Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum; see Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, cat. II 534, pp. 87–88.

8 For De Gheyn’s seminal contribution to this iconographic tradition, see Ger Luijten in Eddy de Jongh and Ger Luijten, Mirror of Everyday Life: Genre Prints in the Netherlands 1550–1700 (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1987), under cat. 22, p. 135; Cynthia von Bogendorf Rupprath in Biesboer and Sitt, under cat. 30, p. 146.

9 Ger Luijten in De Jongh and Luijten, under cat. 22, p. 133.

10 The engraving is dated to circa 1608 by Jan Piet Filedt Kok and Marjolein Leesberg (part 2, no. 154, p. 233), as well as by Ger Luijten (De Jongh and Luijten, cat. 22, p. 133).

11 Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, p. 159, and repr. p. 156, ill. 117.

12 Joachim Jacoby, Die Zeichnungen von Adam Elsheimer: Kritischer Katalog (Frankfurt am Main: Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2008), p. 45. On the basis of Marten Jan Bok’s review of the documents related to Goudt, Jacoby gives the date of Goudt’s departure for Rome as “probably” (vermutlich) 1604. Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, p. 159, dated Goudt’s departure to, at the latest, 1606. Goudt returned to the Netherlands, settling in Utrecht, by 1612.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Promised Gift
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn: Three Generations, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, Boston and London, 1983), vol. 2, cat. no. Add. 3, p. 182, repr. vol. 3, p. 284, pl. 3 (Add.3)

A. Th. van Deursen and Emil Karel Josef Reznicek, Jacques de Gheyn II: Drawings, exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 1985), cat. no. 61 and under cat. no. 62, p. 67, repr. fig. 61

Institut Néerlandais, Le Héraut du Dix-Septième Siècle. Dessins et gravures de Jacuqes de Gheyn II..., exh. cat., Institut Néerlandais (Paris, France, 1985), under cat. no. 26, p. 69 (n. 2)

George Abrams, "Collectors and Collecting", Drawings Defined, ed. Walter Strauss, Abaris Books (New York, 1987), pp. 415-429, p. 417, repr. p. 420, fig. 4

Frederik J. Duparc, "[Review] Collectie Abrams in Rijksprentenkabinet", Tableau (1991), vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 40-42, p. 41, repr. p. 42

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. 10, pp. 38-39, repr.

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

William W. Robinson, "Abrams Dutch Drawings Given to the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.", Apollo (December 1999), vol. 150, pp. 14-16, pp. 15-16, repr. p. 16, fig. 4

Bobbie Leigh and Rebecca Dimling Cochran, "The Top 100 Collectors in America", Art & Antiques (March 2003), vol. 26, no. 3, entire issue, repr. p. 79

Annemarie Stefes, Niederländische Zeichnungen 1450-1850: Kupferstichkabinett der Hamburger Kunsthalle, ed. Andreas Stolzenburg and Hubertus Gaßner, Böhlau Verlag (Cologne, 2011), vol. 1, under cat. no. 29, p. 79 (n. 2)

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), p. 19; cat. no. 39, pp. 142-144, repr. p. 143

Exhibition History

Jacques de Gheyn II 1565-1629 drawings, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 12/14/1985 - 02/09/1986; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 03/09/1986 - 05/11/1986

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

In the Holland Garden: 17th and 18th Century Dutch Works on Paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 05/20/2000 - 10/29/2000

Abrams 50th reunion exhibition, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/2004 - 06/14/2004

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

The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/09/2017 - 01/14/2018

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