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A Woman bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?)
Rembrandt
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Rembrandt’s painting, unique for him in its tender intimacy, shows a young woman almost up to her knees in a stream. She lifts her shift and looks down with a little smile of pleasure at the cool water rippling against her sturdy legs.

Although it’s not certain, this woman may be Hendrickje Stoffels, who came into Rembrandt’s household to look after his infant son after his first wife, Saskia, died. Hendrickje and Rembrandt became lovers but were unable to marry. In the year this picture was painted, Hendrickje endured public humiliation because she was pregnant outside of marriage. Perhaps the painting was a homage to her strength and loyalty.

It has been suggested that the picture is a study for a biblical heroine in a much larger picture, but the plain shift the woman wears is enough to raise a doubt: such a heroine would have been richly dressed or nude. The most likely possibility is that Rembrandt knew and loved this quiet, gently absorbed woman and shared her delight in an unguarded moment of pleasure in some anonymous Dutch stream.

Key facts
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Full title A Woman bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?)
Date made 1654
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 61.8 x 47 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG54
Location in Gallery Not on display
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