Three Heads of Woman, One Asleep

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Three Heads of Woman, One Asleep
engraving
1637

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn engraving.

1637

Original engraving printed in black ink on laid paper.

Signed and dated in the plate upper center Rembrandt f. 1637.

An 18th century impression of Bartsch’s only state, Usticke and New Hollstein’s second state of three, printed after the first “R” of the signature was rebitten.

Catalog: Bartsch 368; Hind 152; Biorklund-Barnard 37-D; Usticke 368 ii/iii; New Hollstein 161 ii/iii.

Intimate views of Rembrandt’s wife Saskia appear in a group of three plates, on each of which Rembrandt etched a few studies of his wife and other female models. He appears to have worked directly on the copper as though sketching with a pen on a sheet of paper. “Three Heads of Women, One Asleep” is typical of these etchings that grow out of the tradition of master artists designing prints as model sheets from which aspiring artists could learn to draw. While the two heads in three-quarter profile may easily be associated with Saskia, the close-fitting headgear and hand of the sleeping woman make the identification less certain. Rembrandt’s composition appears casual, but he has in fact taken great care to vary the poses and lighting in each of the studies and to arrange them artistically on the plate. In contrast to more formal portrait prints such as “Saskia with Pearls in Her Hair” (Bartsch 347), here Saskia hardly seems to have been aware that Rembrandt was taking her likeness. Perhaps she had grown so accustomed to being observed that she took no notice. He took advantage of these moments to create remarkably personal images. The heads in Rembrandt’s etched sketch plates seem to capture the individuality of the model, a quality distinct from the more stereotyped studies of body parts seen in most of the printed model sheet series by other artists that preceded them.