after Rembrandt van Rijn, Called Rembrandt’s Mother

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Called Rembrandt’s Mother
18th or 19th century
The Music Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 50 cm, Overall width: 39 cm
after Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Catalogue Number


This picture is one of a number of copies of Rembrandt’s panel painting of an old woman, so-called ‘The Artist’s Mother’.1 For many years the original was incorrectly identified as a portrait of the Countess of Desmond. It was one of three pictures, all thought to be by Rembrandt, that were presented to Charles I by his courtier Sir Robert Kerr, some time before June 1633. These were therefore the first works by the artist to be seen in England. The other two paintings are thought to be the Self-Portrait, in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and Young Scholar by a Fire (lost), now believed to have been by Rembrandt’s contemporary, Jan Lievens. The portrait of the old woman was sold in the Commonwealth Sale (19 December 1651, for £4) but was recovered on the Restoration in 1660 and remains in the Royal Collection.2 

Rembrandt painted his mother, Neeltgen Willensdr. van Zuytbroek (1569–1640), on a number of occasions, though these pictures were probably used as generic head studies, known as tronies, demonstrating his skill at painting elderly people, rather than conventional portraits. Other examples of Rembrandt’s paintings of his mother, possibly as a symbol of old age rather than as a portrait, include Rembrandt’s Mother Reading (Wilton House, Salisbury, Collection of the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery) and Rembrandt’s Mother (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna). 

In the present version, the sitter’s head is centred in the middle of the canvas, rather than to the left as in the original. While Rembrandt’s painting shows his mastery of rendering precise details, different textures and light effects, the copy appears to have been painted some time after the original arrived in England.

by Emily Burns


Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 25


  1. Christopher White, The Dutch Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 101, cat. 158.

  2. Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Per Rumberg, eds, Charles I: King and Collector (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2018), p. 250, cat. 107.


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