The Pancake Woman

Rembrandt Van Rijn
The Pancake Woman
etching
1635

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.

1635

Original etching printed in black ink on laid paper.

Signed and dated in the plate in the title margin below the image Rembrandt f. 1635.

A superb 18th century impression of Bartsch’s third and final state, Usticke’s second state of six, New Hollstein’s third state of seven, printed after the addition of the cross hatching to a small area of foul biting on the basket on the right-hand margin.

Catalog: Bartsch 124 iii/iii; Hind 141; Biorklund-Barnard 35-I; Usticke 124 ii/vi; New Hollstein 144 iii/vii.

IIn the 1679 inventory of the Amsterdam print dealer Clement de Jonghe this image is titled “wijfjen met boeckende koecken” (woman with buckwheat cakes). She is cooking “drie-in-de-pan” (what we would call Scotch pancakes or drop scones) made from buckwheat, which in those days often contained currants and pieces of apple. Later the print was called “het koekebaksterje” (the cake baker), which was correctly translated by Gersaint in 1751 as “la faiseuse de koucks,” but the recipe that he gave there is for crêpe-style pancakes, and those are not what the woman is cooking.

This subject has a long tradition. It was already a familiar motif in the sixteenth century, often in carnival scenes, but did not develop into a subject in its own right until the seventeenth century. The image fits seamlessly into a group of sketches of street life Rembrandt made in the 1630’s, in which countless woman and children were recorded. The image shows the woman cooking surrounded by children whose interest in the delicacy she is making is all too apparent. The toddler with a pancake in the foreground, turning away in frustration from a pestering dog, is a beautifully observed true to life detail. The irregular hatching in the background has recently been identified as the cover of the woman’s stall.