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Rembrandt, Portrait of Aechje Claesdr.

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Aechje Claesdr.
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Date made 1634
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 71.1 × 55.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG775
Location Room 22
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Portrait of Aechje Claesdr.

The optical illusion created by this painting is a powerful one. Rembrandt has used contrasts between light and dark – for example, the blacks and whites of the sitter’s clothes, the highlights on her nose and the heavy shadow under her chin – to create a highly convincing three-dimensional effect. The old lady’s head seems to project forward out of the picture.

It isn’t only light effects that make this portrait seem so lifelike. Rembrandt has evoked the old lady’s blotched, blemished and sagging skin using different textures and thicknesses of paint. The furrows and shadows, the wrinkles and pudginess make her face seem almost tangible. He did this with a lively brush, applying the paint fluidly with short and curving strokes as well as dabs and stipples.

Long thought to be a portrait of Rembrandt’s grandmother, the sitter has now been identified as Aechje Claesdr. (1551–about 1635), the widow of the Rotterdam brewer Jan Pesser, who died in 1619.

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