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The National Gallery of Scotland explores Rembrandt’s real women

The exhibition on the Dutch master's female subjects will then travel to the Royal Academy

The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, has brought together from 40 museums worldwide 27 paintings by Rembrandt—including the portrait of Maria Trip from the Rijksmuseum (cleaned especially for the occasion), the “Portrait of a woman, aged 62” from the Dutch dealer, Robert Noortman, who bought it last year at Christie’s for £19.8 million (The Art Newspaper, No.110, January 2001, p.43), “The Holy Family” from the Hermitage, “Susannah and the Elders” from the Mauritshuis (right), the “Girl at a window” from the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and all three versions of “Flora” from the National Gallery, London, the Hermitage and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—plus 48 etchings and 44 drawings to show the continuity and development of the theme of women in art and their importance in his personal life. The chronological arrangement of the pictures shows his stylistic changes and his persistent preoccupation with this subject. In biblical, mythological, genre paintings and portraits, and in his spontaneous sketches and recently publicised erotic prints, the works testify to Rembrandt’s emotional response to and artistic use of women, particularly his elderly mother, Cornelia, his wife, Saskia, his son’s nursemaid, Geertje Dircks, and his mistress, Hendrickje Stoffels. The exhibition tries to examine the nature of Rembrandt’s “realism”, which the organises say may challenge our own attitudes to women—his refusal to show idealised female bodies and the way he showed them “warts and everything”. Rembrandt’s treatment of women is situated in the context of a culture whose assumptions about female beauty were influenced both by classicising tastes and the northern tradition of naturalistic observation. The exhibition goes to the Royal Academy in London in the autumn

“Rembrandt’s women”, National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, % +44 (0)131 556 4503, fax +44 (0)131 343 3250 (until 2 September). The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 0Ds, Tel: +44 (0)20 7730 8000, fax +44 (0)20 7730 8001 (22 September to 16 December). The catalogue by Julia Lloyd Williams et al., (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2001), 272 pp, 90 b/w ills, 200 col. ills, £39.95 (hb) ISBN 190327818, £22.50 (pb) ISBN 190327821

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Rembrandt’s real women'