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Jacob de Gheyn III

An inscription on the back of the panel identifies the sitter as the Dutch painter and engraver Jacob de Gheyn (1596–1641). De Gheyn turns towards the viewer, brightly spotlit, lips slightly parted as if about to speak. His face has been softly modelled with a range of brushstrokes, some more thickly applied than others. The relatively bold application of creams and pinks on his illuminated cheek contrast with the subtle blending of the greys and browns in his moustache. Highly delicate brushwork can be found in the soft folds of skin around the eyes, the wiry hair, and in the simple yet finely-wrought costume.     

The Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606/7–69) started to paint portraits when he moved north to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, from Leiden around 1631. The intimate size of this work suited the friendly circumstances in which it was commissioned: De Gheyn owned some of Rembrandt’s paintings, and Rembrandt painted De Gheyn along with his friend Maurits Huygens (1595–1642), Secretary to the Council of State in The Hague, in 1632. De Gheyn bequeathed his portrait to Huygens upon his death and the paintings remained together until the eighteenth century. The portrait of Huygens is now in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg. Despite Rembrandt’s apparent empathy for his sitter, not least through his close attention to detail, this intimate portrait was criticised in a poem by Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687), the brother of Maurits, for bearing little resemblance to De Gheyn. He still admired the painting but wrote: 'if De Gheyn’s face had happened to look like this, this would have been an exact portrait of De Gheyn'.

Currently on display

Rembrandt van Rijn
Gallery 5
29.9 x 24.9 cm
Oil on panel
Signed and dated, top left: 'RH 'van Ryn / 1632' ('RH' in monogram)
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number
Adopted in loving memory of Olwyn and Graham Fuller by Adrian Fuller and Katharine and Kevin Carter, 2023