Noli me tangere



Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam

Noli me tangere  (c. 1655-1656)

quill and reed pens in brown ink, with touches of brown wash, and corrections in white at Christ’s right foot and at the right corner of his mouth; dark brown ink framing lines.

218 by 185 mm.

fool’s cap with collar of seven bells, total height 123mm: similar to Heawood, nos. 2000 (1662), 2005 (1656); Kettering, 1988, H214, p.793 and Gs20, p.790 (both documented to 1655).
vertical; |25|22|24|26| mm.
verso, 1120S and J.5130 at lower left (graphite).

Chevalier Ignace-Joseph de Claussin, 1766-1844, Paris.

Pierre Defer, 1798-1870, (Lugt 739), Paris.

Henri Dumesnil, 1823-1898, (Lugt 739), Paris. [Pierre Defer’s son-in-law]

Defer-Dumesnil collection, sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 10-12 May 1900, lot 89 [citing provenance from “Collection du chevalier de Claussin”].

Dr. Théodore Tuffier, 1857-1929, Paris.

Paul Cassirer & Co., Berlin and Amsterdam.

Franz Koenigs, 1881-1941, Berlin and Haarlem, acquired through Cassirer, mid-1930s(?).

Christine van der Waals-Koenigs, Heemstede.

Franz Koenigs collection, sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 23 January 2001, lot 17, acquired at the sale.


Lippmann, Friedrich and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. Original Drawings by Rembrandt. Vol. IV, The Hague 1903-11, no. 54.

Lugt, Frits. Les Marques de Collections. Amsterdam 1921, p. 131 (under L. 739).

Bredt, E.W. Rembrandt-Bibel. Munich 1928, p. 110, illus.; p. 137 (as in the Hofstede de Groot collection, The Hague, and dated c. 1638).

Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt, Des Meisters Handzeichnungen. Stuttgart/New York, 1934, Vol. II, p. 70, no. 511; p. 393 (as dated c. 1650).

Rotermund, H.-M. The motif of radiance in Rembrandt’s Biblical drawings. The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. XV, 1952, p. 103, pl. 19b; p. 120, note 1.

Benesch, Otto. The Drawings of Rembrandt. London, 1954-7, Vol. V, no. 993, fig. 1206 and 1973, Vol. V, no. 993, fig. 1274.

Benesch, Otto. Rembrandt as a Draughtsman. London 1960, no. 80, fig. 80. (as in The Hague, Lugt collection).

Haverkamp-Begemann, Egbert. Review of the first edition of Benesch. Kunstchronik, 1961, p. 25 (pointing out that the drawing was not in the Lugt collection, and discussing the subject with reference to the article by H-M. Rotermund).

Slive, Seymour. Drawings of Rembrandt. New York, 1965, Vol. II, no. 500.


Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Exposition d’oeuvres de Rembrandt, Dessins et Gravures, 1908, no. 351 (private collection, Dr. Théodore Tuffier).

Haarlem, Vleeshal, Rembrandt Tentoonstelling, 1951, cat. 177.

PeckSheldonRembrandt Drawings: Twenty-five Years in the Peck Collection. Boston, Perho Documenta, 2003. Published catalogue

This spectacular drawing shows an awestruck Mary Magdalene with extended arms and fingers and downcast eyes at the instant she recognizes “Touch me not (Noli me tangere)…” as being the voice of the resurrected Christ, not a gardener she supposed was approaching her.  Rembrandt shows her at this moment of realization, kneeling and stunned.  He even invents a theatrical element with her accidentally kicking over her jar of anointing oil.  Applying a modicum of lines and sparing touches of wash, Rembrandt creates an immediacy, intimacy and emotional impact that are extraordinary in capturing this moment (John 20:16-17), despite some fading of the original ink strength in certain areas.

The drawing’s style fits perfectly into Rembrandt’s works of religious subjects done with reed and quill pens in the mid-1650s.  The parallel hatchings around the grotto, the confident lines of body form and drapery, the anatomical perfection, the scrupulous detail such as the stigmata seen on Christ’s left wrist and right foot, the exact applications of lead-white corrections to the outline of Christ’s right ankle and just above the right corner of his mouth, the consistency of light source revealed by accents of the penned lines and by the washed shadows on Christ’s left side applied with either dry brush or finger, all point to Rembrandt’s meticulous execution and known drafting methods.  Striking similarities in graphic structure are seen in two Rembrandt drawings at the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam: The three Marys at the tomb, (Benesch 1009, c. 1656) [Figure 10a.], depicting a moment earlier in this Biblical narrative, and Jacob is shown Joseph’s blood-stained coat, (Benesch 991, c. 1655-6) [Figure 10b.], both coming from the Koenigs collection.

The paper bears a complete watermark that was not recorded or studied earlier, because the drawing was in storage for most of the last sixty years after being acquired for the Frans Koenigs “second” collection between 1935-41.  The paper structure and watermark, depicting a particular kind of “fool’s cap” with a collar of seven bells, match closely the paper Rembrandt was using for his etchings around 1654-5.  This paper evidence is consistent with the stylistic evidence dating the drawing to the mid-1650s.

The attribution to Rembrandt is confirmed with published reports from Benesch, Haverkamp-Begemann and Slive.  Additionally, Peter Schatborn of the Rijksmuseum endorses the drawing as Rembrandt’s work.  Aert de Gelder had been briefly suggested as a possible alternative authorship.  De Gelder (1645-1727) was an apprentice in Rembrandt’s studio from 1661-2, when he was 16 to 17 years old.  Given the watermark/paper dating to circa 1655, de Gelder either would have been about 10 years old to have produced such a Rembrandtesque masterpiece contemporaneously, or he would have had to find a rather large sheet of six- to seven-year-old paper while he was in Rembrandt’s studio.  Both alternatives appear highly unlikely.  Here, the paper evidence further clarifies the work as Rembrandt’s.  Moreover, Aert de Gelder was a second-rate draftsman: the one group-figure drawing (Sum. 1052) solidly attributable to this Rembrandt pupil pales in comparison with this tour de force by his master.