© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Not a formal portrait, but a study of a generic type and emotional expression, this painting dates to a period shortly after the artist left his native Leiden and settled in Amsterdam. It shows the dramatic lighting and painstaking description of detail and texture that inform his early work. Rembrandt and his contemporary Jan Lievens painted head studies of this kind — from male and female models, young and old — when both worked in Leiden, but Rembrandt continued to produce them throughout his career. In their informality, they acknowledge their derivation from a type of studio exercise, yet many are highly finished, signed and dated, and were sold to collectors. The signature, which Rembrandt used in this form only in 1632, consists of the monogram RHL — an abbreviation of Rembrandt Harmenszoon Leydensis (Rembrandt, son of Harmen, from Leiden) — followed by his surname.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam)
Portrait of an Old Man
Other Titles
Former Title: Bust of an Old Man
Former Title: Head of an Old Man
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Physical Descriptions
Oil on oak panel
66.9 x 50.7 cm (26 5/16 x 19 15/16 in.)
framed: 98.3 x 82.5 cm (38 11/16 x 32 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: verso, upper right of cradle, crayon: 47431
  • inscription: verso, upper left of frame, red chalk: 47431
  • inscription: verso, upper center of cradle, black crayon: 201 [illegible text]
  • inscription: verso, center of cradle, red chalk: 47431
  • label: red bordered, handwritten text in black ink: 3858
  • label: verso, right side of frame, printed text: Rembrandt in America / North Carolina Museum of Art October 30, 2011 - January / 22, 2012 / Cleveland Museum of Art February 19 - May 28, 2012 / Minneapolis Institute of Arts June 24 - September 16, 2012 / Rembrandt van Rijn / Portrait of an Old Man, c. 1632 / Oil on cradeled oak / 26 3/8 x 20 in. / Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard / University, Cambridge, Bequest of Nettie G. / Naumburg
  • inscription: lower right: RHL [in monogram] van Ryn / 1632
Ducal Collection, Oldenburg (1823-1918). Gustav Pauli, Bremen and Hamburg, 1919. [Unidentified dealer, by 1923]. [1] [Paul Bottenwieser, Berlin and Frankfurt, 1925] sold; to private collector. [Ehrich Galleries, New York, by 1928], sold; to Nettie Naumburg, New York, 1928, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1930

[1] Per Wilhelm Bode in “Die Rembrandts der Oldenberger Galerie, Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung," no. 340, July 21, 1923, the painting was transported to Amsterdam and the United States where it was offered for sale and then returned to Germany.

State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Bredius 147
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Nettie G. Naumburg
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

"Rembrandt in America: The Painter and his Pretenders", The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC, Sunday, October 30, 2011), section D, repr. p. 2D

Verzeichniss der Gemälde und Gypsabgüsse in der Grossherzoglichen Sammlung zu Oldenburg, Druck und Verlag der Schulzeschen Buchhandlung (Oldenburg, 1845), p. 10, no. 73

Gustav Parthey, Deutscher Bildersaal (Berlin, Germany, 1863-1864), Vol. I, p. 334, no. 145

Verzeichniss der Gemälde und Gypsabgüsse in der Grossherzoglichen Sammlung zu Oldenburg: mit einem Anhange sämmtlicher auf den Gemälden befindlichen Monogramme, Bezeichnungen und Inschriften, nach den Bestimmungen von G. F. Waagen, Druck und Verlag der Schulzeschen Buchhandlung (Oldenburg, 1868), p. 36, no. 124

Friedrich Kurd von Alten, Verzeichniss der Gemälde in der Grossherzoglichen Sammlung zu Oldenburg: mit einem Anhange der auf den Gemälden befindlichen Monogramme, Bezeichnungen u. Inschriften, Druck und Verlag der Schulzeschen Buchhandlung (Oldenburg, 1871), p. 86, no. 167

Wilhelm von Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei, F. Vieweg und Sohn (Braunschweig, 1883), pp. 413, 574, nr. 116

Eugène Dutuit, Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt: catalogue historique et descriptif, A. Lévy (Paris, 1885), pp. 31, 64, 66, no. 363

Alfred von Wurzbach, Rembrandt-Galerie. Eine Auswahl von hundert Gemälden Rembrandts, nach den vorzüglichsten Stichen, Radirungen und Schwarzkunst-Blättern., Verlag Paul Neff (Stuttgart, 1886), p. 52, no. 111

Wilhelm von Bode, Die Grossherzogliche Gemälde-Galerie zu Oldenburg, Gesellschaft für Vervielfältigende Kunst (Vienna, 1888), pp. 27, 32, repr.

Verzeichniss der Gemälde, Gypse und Bronzen in der Grossherzoglichen Sammlung zu Oldenburg, A. Schwartz (1890), p. 92, no. 194

Émile Michel, Rembrandt: sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps, Librairie Hachette (Paris, 1893), pp. 112, 554

Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, "Kritische Bemerkungen zu einigen Niederländern in der Schweriner Galerie", Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, Verlag von W. Spemann (Berlin and Stuttgart, 1894), Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 180-184, p. 183

Wilhelm von Bode and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, The Complete Work of Rembrandt: History, Description and Heliographic Reproduction of all the Master's Pictures with a Study of His Life and His Art, Charles Sedelmeyer (Paris, 1897-1906), Vol. II, p. 162, no. 141, repr.

Ludwig Strackerjan, Oldenburger Spaziergänge und Ausflüge: Mit 7 Kärtchen und einem Situationsplan der Oldenburgischen Eisenbahne, Druck und Verlag von Gerhard Stalling (Oldenburg, 1900), p. 11

G. Ebe, Der Deutsche Cicerone. Führer durch die Kunstschätze der Länder deutscher Zunge, Verlag von Otto Spamer (Leipzig, 1901), Vol. IV, p. 466

Kurzes Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Gips-Abgüsse und Bronze-Nachbildungen der Grossherzoglichen Sammlung im Augusteum zu Oldenburg, A. Schwartz (Oldenburg, 1902), p. 27, no. 194

Abraham Bredius and F. Schmidt-Degener, Die Grossherzogliche Gemaelde-Galerie im Augusteum zu Oldenburg. 41 Reproductionen in Photogravure. Mit einem Vorwort und erläuterndem Text, Carl G. Oncken's Hofkunsthandlung (Oldenburg, 1906), pp. 12-13, repr.

Alfred von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, Halm und Goldmann (Vienna and Leipzig, 1906-1911), Band 3, pp. 406, 412

Adolf Rosenberg, Rembrandt. Des Meisters Gemälde in 551 Abbildungen, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, 1906), p. 71, p. 395, repr.

Beschreibendes und Kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der Hervorragendsten Holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, checklist, Paul Neff Verlag (Stuttgart, 1907-1928), Vol. 6, p. 194, cat. no. 417

William R. Valentiner, Rembrandt. Des Meisters Gemälde in 643 Abbildungen, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, 1909), p. 116, 553, repr.

Dr. Karl Schaefer, Führer durch die Grossherzogliche Gemälde-Galerie im Augusteum zu Oldenburg, Carl G. Oncken (Oldenburg, 1912), p. 11, repr.

Wilhelm Oncken, "Die Großherzogliche Gemälde-Galerie im Augusteum", Heimatkunde des Herzogums Oldenburg, Schünemann (Bremen, 1913), pp. 534-542, Bd. II, p. 540

Wilhelm von Bode, "Die Rembrandts der Oldenburger Galerie", Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung (July 21, 1923), No. 340, p. 2

John Charles van Dyke, Rembrandt and His School: A Critical Study of the Master and His Pupils with a New Assignment of Their Pictures, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, 1923), p. 123, repr. as plate XXVI

"New York Collector Buys a Rembrandt", The Art News (November 28, 1925), vol. XXIV, no. 8, p. 1, repr.

[Reproduction Only], The Art News (Feburary 11, 1928), Vol. 26, No. 19, p. 10, repr.

"Naumburg Bequest", Notes, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, June 1930), Vol. 2, No. 5, pp. 222-225, p. 222, 225, repr. p. 225

Annual Report 1929-1930, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1930), p. 4

"Paintings by Rembrandt, Franz Hals, and Murillo, are Included Among Naumburg Gifts on Display at Fogg", The Harvard Crimson (Cambridge, MA, March 4, 1931), p. 4, repr.

Paul J. Sachs, "The Naumburg Bequest", Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 19 Feb 1931, p. 633, repr. p. 637

Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings in Aid of The Architects' Emergency Fund, exh. cat., Ehrich-Newhouse Incorporated (New York, 1935), cat. no. 26

Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen, Phaidon (Vienna, 1935), p. 7, no. 147, repr.

W.R. Valentiner, Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Frans Hals, Rembrandt, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Anderson & Ritchie: The Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles, 1947), p. 64, cat. no. VII, repr.

Seymour Slive, "The Young Rembrandt", Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, Allen Memorial Art Museum (Oberlin, Ohio, 1963), Vol. XX, No. 3, pp. 120-149, p. 137

Jakob Rosenberg, Seymour Slive, and E. H. Ter Kuile, Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600-1800, Penguin Books (Baltimore, MD, 1966), p. 84

Abraham Bredius, Rembrandt: the Complete Edition of the Paintings, ed. Horst Gerson, Phaidon (London, 1969), p. 131, repr.

Horst Gerson, "Rembrandt's Workshop and Assistants", Rembrandt After Three Hundred Years: A Symposium – Rembrandt and His Followers, The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1973), pp. 19-31, p. 24

Seymour Slive, "Rembrandt at Harvard", Apollo (June 1978), vol. 107, no. 196, pp. 452-463, p. 88, 93, repr. p. 93 as fig. 17

Jan Lievens ein Maler im Schatten Rembrandt, exh. cat., Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum (Braunschweig, 1979), pp.17-18

Josua de Bruyn and Ernst van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague and Boston, MA, 1982-2014), vol. III, p. 24, repr. as fig. 11; vol. 6, cat. no 81, p. 119, pp. 520-521, repr. p. 117, p. 520.

Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler in vier Banden (Landau, 1983), p. 2943, no. 1919 (as Anonyme Rembrandt-Schule)

Peter C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America, Netherlands-American Amity Trust and Eerdmans (Washington, D.C. and Grand Rapids, MI, 1986), p. 42, repr. as fig. 54

John Gilmour, Picturing the World, State University of New York Press (Albany, 1986), p. 10, repr. as fig. 10

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 51, color plate; pp. 126, 177 repr. b/w cat. no. 121

Susan Lumenello, "Picturing an Exhibition: On the Making of 'Rembrandt'", Colloquy [Harvard Alumni Quarterly] (Fall 2006), pp. 2-3, 11, repr. p. 2 (detail)

Ivan Gaskell, Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2006), checklist

Friso Lammertse and Jaap Van Der Veen, Uylenburgh & Son: Art and Commerce from Rembrandt to De Lairesse 1625-1675, exh. cat., Waanders Uitgevers and The Rembrandt House Museum (Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2006), pp. 183-184; repr. in b/w p. 184 as fig. 136.

Tom Rassieur and George S. Keyes, Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship, exh. cat., Skira Rizzoli (New York, NY, 2011), p. 106, cat. 14 p. 181, repr. p. 105 as pl. 25 and p. 224 (full page)

Sebastian Dohe, Malve Anna Falk, and Rainer Stamm, Die Gemäldegalerie Oldenburg: Eine europäische Altmeistersammlung, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg (Oldenburg, Germany, 2017), pp. 312-313, cat. no. 194, repr. p. 313

Colleen Walsh, "Connecting with a Masterpiece: Rembrandt Drawing at Harvard Art Museums Offers a Close Look at Artist's Hand", The Harvard Gazette (August 1, 2019), repr., https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/08/rembrandt-drawing-offers-a-close-look-at-artists-hand/, accessed August 1, 2019

Exhibition History

A Loan Exhibition of Paintings in Aid of The Architects' Emergency Fund, Ehrich-Newhouse Incorporated, 01/16/1935 - 01/26/1935

Loan Exhibition of Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 11/18/1947 - 12/31/1947

Rembrandt: A Selection of his Works, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 10/18/1984 - 12/11/1984

Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 09/09/2006 - 12/10/2006

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

Rembrandt in America, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 10/30/2011 - 01/22/2012; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 02/19/2012 - 05/28/2012; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 06/24/2012 - 09/16/2012

32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/08/2017; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/17/2018 - 10/10/2019

Young Rembrandt, Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 11/01/2019 - 02/09/2020; Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, 02/27/2020 - 06/07/2020

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

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