The supper at Emmaus


Constantijn Daniel van RENESSE

Maarssen 1626 – 1680 Eindhoven

Retouched by REMBRANDT van Rijn

Leiden 1606 – 1669 Amsterdam         

The supper at Emmaus  (c. 1650-1652)

Technique:      pen in dark brown ink and brush in brown and gray ink over black and red chalk; dark brown ink framing lines.
Dimensions:    215 x 250 mm.


fool’s cap with collar of five bells, total height 113mm:
identical to Giltaij 1988, p. 351, no. 44 (c. 1640-5), Schapelhouman and Schatborn 1998, p. 243, no. W102 (no date); nearly identical to Schatborn 1985, p. 238, no. 73 (no date); similar to Kettering 1988, GJr68, p. 790 (c. 1647-8).

horizontal, 23-24 mm.

initialed R. lower right (dark brown ink, by Renesse?); verso, at center 33 (graphite) and 10 (red chalk).


Carel Emil Duits, (Lugt 533a), London.

Sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 16 January 1985, lot 176, acquired at the sale.


Sumowski, Werner. Drawings of the Rembrandt School. 1985, Vol. 9, no. 2173X, pp. 4880-1.

Jan Blanc, Peindre et penser la peinture au XVIIe siècle, La theorie de l’art de Samuel van Hoogstraten, 2008, p.137, fig. 64.



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

Werner Sumowski (1985) noted that J. G. van Gelder was first to identify this work as by Constantijn Daniel van Renesse.  The cloud-like washes and dense, extensive use of many ink and chalk media are signs of his touch during his apprenticeship with Rembrandt.

The scene is set at the moment Christ concluded his blessing over the bread, when the two fellow travelers showed their astonishment in recognizing him (Luke 24:30-31).   The seating is depicted as cushioned benches, the same setting that Rembrandt employed in his etching of The supper at Emmaus (Bartsch 87) dated 1654.

Confident pen strokes are apparent over the black chalk lines in Christ’s hair, face, left forearm and seat.  These appear to be afterthoughts, responses to the composition, not part of it, very much like corrections by Rembrandt found in other drawings by Constantijn van Renesse.  He was a student in Rembrandt’s workshop from the late 1640s to the mid-1650s.  Retouching in Rembrandt’s hand has been identified in at least fifteen drawings by Renesse, all from the early 1650s (Sum. 2187XX – 2199XX, 2201XX, 2202XX), more than with any other Rembrandt pupil.  This group of corrected drawings is limited to Renesse’s Biblical scenes.  The additions by Rembrandt were done with rapid strokes in dark brown ink and functioned usually to improve the anatomy and pose of figures, and to enhance emotional impact.

In this drawing, Rembrandt recognized that Renesse drew Christ’s torso too long, out of proportion for his smaller head size.  Rembrandt shortened the torso using a quill pen, drawing an arc and a line at the seat bottom five millimeters above the original seat.  In this presumed tutorial session with his student, Rembrandt used a reed pen to add broad strokes on the left side of Christ’s hair to mask more of his face and to lengthen the hair over his shoulder (see similar effects in the hair of Christ, Benesch 931, Schatborn, 1985, cat. no. 25, p. 57).  Furthermore, ink strokes were placed at the lateral contours of his nose and nasal dorsum to add definition to the face.  His jaw base was lowered with an ink line, effectively establishing a short beard, characteristic of Rembrandt’s depictions of the resurrected Christ (e.g., see Noli me tangere in this catalogue, no. 10).  A rapid semicircular reed-pen stroke starting at the left elbow correctly shortened the elongated left upper arm and boldly suggested a more elevated position for the forearms and hands in holding the bread.  In addition, some inked accents were placed in the drapery behind Christ, presumably to indicate a darkened area for more dramatic shading.  Rembrandt was particularly skillful in the selective application of reed and quill pens in his drawings at this time.  His corrections on other Renesse drawings show this distinctive pen combination, as do his own works of the period, like A seated old man warming his hands by a fire (c. 1650), also in this catalogue (no. 8).

The “R.” in the lower left is by neither Rembrandt nor collector Jonathan Richardson, two earlier suggestions.  It is likely by Renesse, since it compares favorably with his initials on other works (see Wurzbach, 1910, Vol. 2, pp.454-5).  Infrared reflectography shows the ink in the monogram as identical to the dark brown ink of the drawing.  The drawing has three slight vertical creases, sometimes exaggerated in photographs, running through the center of the table.