A pregnant woman standing


Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam


A pregnant woman standing  (c. 1633-1635)

pen in dark brown ink; greenish-brown framing lines (by van Haecken or an earlier hand); laid down on an album page.

66 x 43 mm.

horizontal, 25 mm.



Joseph van Haecken, 1699-1749, (Lugt 2516), his sale, London, Langford,
11-27 February 1751.
Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick, 1719-1773, (his mark, not in Lugt), Warwickshire.
9th Earl of Warwick, his sale, Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex, Sotheby’s, 14 May 1997, lot 213 (within an album originally at Warwick Castle), acquired at the sale.



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

This poignant Rembrandt study from life dates stylistically to the 1633-5 period.  It was recently discovered in an album of 31 prints and 18 drawings, mostly works by 17th-century artists, assembled in the mid-1760s by the 1st Earl of Warwick with help from his teen-aged second son Charles Greville.

A subset in Rembrandt’s drawing oeuvre consists of sketches of women with children or carrying children.  The master drew this subject often during Saskia’s four pregnancies from the mid-1630s to the early 1640s.  Their first child Rumbartus was born on 15 December 1635 and died two months later.  Based on the carefully accented lines around this woman’s torso and left hand, it seems Rembrandt was interested in recording her changed body shape and motherly hand position, apparently observing the pregnant woman from a stoop or other slightly elevated position, looking down onto the street where she was standing, in conversation perhaps.

Parallels in subject and handling are seen in Benesch 228, c. 1633-5 (Giltaij, 1988, cat. no. 9) [Figure 3a].  That drawing is of a standing woman turned in the same direction; she is holding a smiling infant and, as in the present drawing, Rembrandt put the woman’s face in shadow, undeveloped, while he concentrated on highlighting her clothing and her body.  An early collector or dealer could have easily cut both small studies from a larger sheet of several sketches on the same theme.

The brilliant cascade of strokes Rembrandt released to form the fingers of the pregnant woman’s left hand, resting on her abdomen, is a passage seen also in a quick sketch of a man holding a jug, in London (Benesch 235, c.1634-5) [Figure 3b].

Rembrandt’s A pregnant woman standing shares a page of the Warwick album with two 18th-century prints of lions after Bernard Picart’s series of etchings Recueil de Lions (1728-9).   Judging from other haphazard juxtapositions in the album, placement of these works together was strictly a chance happening.