An Old Woman In An Arm Chair – Rembrandt

This is the earliest of the five pictures on this wall. It is dated 1635. The subject was not promising for a portrait, a plain old lady who would sit upright in her chair in the attitude of a peasant who poses for the village photographer, and who insisted on having herself shown with a pleasant expression. Rembrandt has made a great picture of her, nevertheless, by the sheer force of his technical power, the masterly unobtrusive drawing, the just and reasonable color, and the logical and easy handling. The uncompromising pose, in his hands, counts in the clarity of the characterization as much as the homely face, the gnarled, hard-working hands, and the neat dress.

It reminds Dr. Valentiner of Hals, who at the time of the picture was at Amsterdam painting some of his corporation groups, and whom Rembrandt emulated.

The quality of pure expression which Rembrandt manifests so supremely in the great pictures done for his own satisfaction is not apparent in this painting. From its tranquil and matter-of-fact appearance one would little suspect that its author was to show himself one of the most unaccountable among painters. He seems to have had two natures, as Eugène Fromentin said, the careful practician, clear minded, logical, objectively realistic, as in this work, and again the instinctive, inspired visionary, as in the Old Woman Cutting her Nails.