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Girl at a Window

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Painted in 1645 when Rembrandt was 39, this painting falls somewhere between genre and portraiture. The girl’s identity remains uncertain; in the past she has been described as a courtesan, a Jewish bride or an historical or Biblical figure. It is more widely accepted that she is a servant girl; her rosy, tanned complexion along with her brown arms implies she worked outdoors. Leaning on a ledge, she stares directly out of the painting while fiddling with her necklace, either a gold chain or a cord, like that seen around the cuffs and along the seams of her loose chemise. She also wears a small headdress, possibly a type worn in North Holland, and her hair is tied back with red string.

A frequently quoted account by the French art theorist and early owner of the work, Roger de Piles (1635-1709), claimed that Rembrandt put this painting in his window and passers-by mistook it for a real girl. While this story was not strictly true, it served as a general comment on Rembrandt's ability to create realistic portraits that could seduce his viewers. Such trompe l’oeil paintings, where the subject seemed to protrude out of the picture frame, became popular in the 17th century and Rembrandt continued to use and adapt this pose throughout his career.

The confident brushstrokes and impasto paint is typical of Rembrandt’s style of the 1640s. During the recent conservation of this painting, the discoloured varnish was carefully removed, revealing a bold mixture of colours in the model's face. Rembrandt often applied his paint with palette knifes as well as his fingers.

Related artworks

Currently on display

Rembrandt van Rijn
Gallery 5
81.8 x 66.2 cm
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated, lower right: 'Rembrandt/ ft. 1645'
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number