Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery
March 9 through May 30, 2010
Originally rectangular in format, this painting was most likely cut down and given an arched top at the end of the seventeenth century. In the following century, the work was thought to be a painting of Rembrandt’s servant that the artist had placed at his window to fool the passersby. This apocryphal tale about Rembrandt’s mastery of illusion was a variation on Pliny’s account of the ancient Greek artist Zeuxis, whose painting of grapes was so realistic that birds flew down to peck at the fruit.
In fact, the identity of Rembrandt’s model here cannot be established with any certainty. Rather than assume that this is a depiction of a servant — questionable in view of the gold chains around the model’s neck — it seems more likely that the present work was conceived as a tronie, or figure study, showing a stock character in costume. Whatever the status of the young girl, Rembrandt painted this work with great energy and decisiveness, applying his pigments with brushes and a palette knife, and, in certain places, even with his own fingers. The girl’s ruddy skin tones, the rough-hewn surfaces of the wall in the background, and the handling of her creamy, white shirt are a tour de force.
The exhibition, in the Frick’s Oval Room and Garden Court, is co-organized by Colin B. Bailey, Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick, and Xavier F. Salomon, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich. A fully illustrated catalogue, written by Dr. Salomon, features an essay on the origins of the collection at Dulwich as well as comprehensive entries on the nine works.
Principal funding for the exhibition is provided by Christie's and Melvin R. Seiden.
Additional support is generously provided by John and Constance Birkelund, Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Eberstadt, Fiduciary Trust Company International, Barbara G. Fleischman, Francis Finlay, and Hester Diamond.
The accompanying catalogue is made possible by Jon and Barbara Landau.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.