© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Although De Gheyn III’s manner of draftsmanship was undoubtedly related to the graphic technique of his father and teacher Jacques de Gheyn II, the flawless xecution and the highly linear, almost abstract quality f this sheet epitomize his own unique drawing style. Working with a heavily charged pen on coarse tan paper, the artist depicted the same woman’s head in six different positions. Her deep, expressive wrinkles were rendered using short, stipple-like strokes, while the headscarf was executed mostly through the combination of regular parallel hatches and subtle white highlights. The long-standing appreciation for the younger artist’s penmanship is confirmed by the fact that this drawing was previously owned by British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), a highly discerning art collector and the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2011.513
People
Jacques de Gheyn III, Dutch (Amsterdam, Netherlands c. 1596 - 1641 Utrecht, Netherlands)
Title
Six Studies of an Old Woman's Head
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1625-30
Culture
Dutch
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink and white opaque watercolor over traces of black chalk on light tan antique laid paper
Dimensions
37.4 x 23.7 cm (14 3/4 x 9 5/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: verso, lower left, graphite: 36-50
  • collector's mark: lower center, black ink, stamp: L. 2364 (Joshua Reynolds)
  • collector's mark: lower right, black ink, stamp: Probably L. 3172 (Unidentified, mark largely illegible)
  • collector's mark: lower right, black ink, stamp: L. 474 (Comte de Caylus, formerly pseudo-Crozat)
  • collector's mark: lower right, black ink, stamp: L. 525 (unidentified collector, probably 18th century)
  • inscription: lower left, brown ink: 22
  • collector's mark: verso, lower left, blue ink stamp: L. 3306 (Maida and George Abrams)
  • watermark: none
  • inscription: lower center, graphite: 480
  • inscription: verso, center, brown ink: 1b.L.67
  • inscription: verso, upper center, brown ink: Ad 1 BX
Provenance
Probably Comte de Caylus, Paris (L. 474, lower right).[1] Unidentified Collector (L. 525, lower right). Sir Joshua Reynolds, London (L. 2364, lower center). Unidentified Collector (probably L. 3172, lower right). [Otto and Anne Wertheimer, Paris], sold; to Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1976 (L. 3306, verso, lower left); The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Gift of George Abrams in memory of Jeff Coolidge, Harvard Class of 1954, 2011.513.

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. 41 by William W. Robinson:

Jacques de Gheyn III, the son and pupil of Jacques de Gheyn II (1953.38, 25.1998.10, 1953.86), is known primarily as a draftsman and printmaker.2 The first and most productive phase of Jacques III’s artistic career lasted from 1614 to about 1619.3 Around 1630, Constantijn Huygens wrote that in his early work, De Gheyn “furnished such brilliant evidence of his talents, both in drawing . . . and, to some extent, also in painting, that to the amazement of his contemporaries he already equals the great masters.” However, his output had declined during the 1620s, provoking Huygens to lament that his friend had failed to live up to expectations and fallen into “an unfruitful and unpraiseworthy slumber.”4 In his 1983 monograph on the De Gheyn family, I. Q. van Regteren Altena catalogued about one hundred drawings by Jacques III, but more than half of those are known only from prints after them or verbal descriptions in sale catalogues. Few have come to light in the past thirty years.5

Studies of single figures and heads wrapped in heavy drapery appear occasionally in the work of Jacques de Gheyn II, but they constitute a principal theme in the oeuvre of his son. In some of Jacques III’s drawings, such as Six Studies of an Old Woman’s Head, the subjects could have been observed from life, while others represent biblical or historical personages.6 The Harvard work is closely related to a sheet with five studies of another old woman’s head, which still belongs to the Abrams Collection (Fig. 1).7 The two remained together from, at the latest, the middle of the eighteenth century until 2011, when George Abrams presented Six Studies of an Old Woman’s Head to Harvard.

The masterful technique and variety of emotional expression in these two drawings demonstrate the artist’s virtuosity, as De Gheyn must have intended in works of this kind. They belong to a type, perfected by Jacques II, of flawlessly executed, artfully arranged studies that, while reminiscent of the traditional model sheet, were presumably made for sale or gift rather than workshop use (Fig. 2).8 Jacques III’s technique relies on dense stippling, parallel strokes, and zigzag hatchings from a pen heavily charged with gallnut ink. The startling contrast of the dark ink and tan paper, reinforced in the Harvard example by the addition of highlights in white opaque watercolor, intensifies the visual impact. De Gheyn wrapped all six heads with fabric shaped into multifaceted folds, and he skillfully described every angular ridge and recess. In places the corrosive ink has degraded the paper, forming areas of continuous dark brown tone that now blur the nuanced pen work with which the artist modeled the shadows. Van Regteren Altena singled out Six Studies of an Old Woman’s Head as “one of the most characteristic studies by Jacques III,” and dated it and the related Abrams sheet to around 1625–30.9

Notes

1 (This note refers to the provenance.) For the evidence for and against the association of this mark (L. 474) with Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières, Comte de Caylus (1692–1765), see Hugh Hudson, “A Drawing Attributed to Marco Zoppo and Its Former Owners,” Master Drawings, vol. 50, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 9–20, pp. 10–12; Frits Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes, Fondation Custodia (Paris 2010), L. 474; and Xanthe Brooke, Mantegna to Rubens: The Weld-Blundell Drawings Collection (London, 1998), pp. 16–17.

2 For the few paintings recorded or attributed to him, see I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn: Three Generations (The Hague, Boston, and London, 1983), vol. 2, pp. 162–63. For the prints, see Jan Piet Filedt Kok and Marjolein Leesberg in New Hollstein, De Gheyn Family, part 2, nos. 1–24, pp. 239–80. The principal publications on the drawings are Hans Möhle, “Drawings by Jacques de Gheyn III,” Master Drawings, vol. 1 (1963): 3–12, and Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, pp. 115–30, 144, and 159–64, vol. 2, cats. III 1–III 106.

3 For the early drawings and prints of Jacques de Gheyn III, see Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, pp. 115–30.

4 On the decline of his productivity in the 1620s, see Van Regteren Altena, vol. 1, pp. 130 and 159–64. The translation of the passage on De Gheyn from Huygens’s autobiography is from idem, pp. 159–60.

5 Ibid., vol. 2, cats. III 1–III 106, pp. 164–77. The number does not include the so-called “Silverpoint Sketchbook” (ibid., vol. 1, pp. 128–30, and vol. 2, cats. S1–S17, pp. 178–81), the attribution of which remains unsettled. Drawings by Jacques III that have appeared since the publication of Van Regteren Altena’s catalogue include: Two Studies of the Head of a Bearded Old Man, Boston, Maida and George Abrams Collection (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, under cat. 33, p. 92, fig. 1; Study of Two Heads, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Porträtsammlung, LAV XVIII/250/11630 (see Gerda Mraz and Uwe Schlögl, eds., Das Kunstkabinett des Johann Caspar Lavater, Vienna, 1999, cat. 23, pp. 242–43; Aaron and Balaam, sale, Tajan, Paris, 24 March 2003, lot 15.

6 Drawings of biblical figures include Moses (Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, cat. III 1, p. 164) and its companions Aaron and Balaam (see n. 5).

7 Jacques de Gheyn III, Five Studies of an Old Woman’s Head (Fig. 1). Brown ink. 350 × 253 mm. Boston, Maida and George Abrams Collection. Robinson, cat. 33a, pp. 92–93. Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, cat. III 42, p. 170.

8 Jacques de Gheyn II, Nine Studies of the Heads of a Boy and a Young Man (Fig. 2). Brown ink and black chalk on gray prepared paper. 362 × 260 mm. Signed and dated on a separate slip of paper, JDGheijn fe 1604. Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ 2456. Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, cat. II 773, p. 125; Holm Bevers in Kupferstichkabinett: Aus Rembrandts Zeit; Zeichenkunst in Hollands Goldenem Jahrhundert (Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2011), cat. 36, p. 59. Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, p. 170, cats. III 41 and III 42, p. 170.

9 Van Regteren Altena, vol. 2, p. 170, cats. III 41 and III 41, p. 170.

Figures
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gift of George Abrams in memory of Jeff Coolidge, Harvard Class of 1954
Accession Year
2011
Object Number
2011.513
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Publication History

Franklin W. Robinson, Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, exh. cat., International Exhibitions Foundation (Washington, D.C, 1977), cat. no. 22, pp. 25-26, repr.

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, checklist (unpublished, 1980), no. 5

I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn: Three Generations, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, Boston and London, 1983), vol. 2, cat. no. III 41, p. 170; repr. vol. 3, p. 259, pl. 48

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. 12, pp. 42-43, repr.

Edward Saywell, Behind the Line: The Materials and Techniques of Old Master Drawings, Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 1998), vol. 6, no. 2, checklist no. 21, p. 27

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. 33b, pp. 92-93 and 253, repr.

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)

Les Marques de Collections de Dessins & d'Estampes, website, Fondation Custodia, 2015, under L. 525

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), cat. no. 41, pp. 148-150, repr. p. 149

Exhibition History

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

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/21/1980 - 01/04/1981

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

Behind the Line: The Materials and Techniques of Old Master Drawings, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/03/1998 - 12/30/1998

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

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