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Portrait of Jacob Trip
Rembrandt
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This is one of a pair of portraits of a husband and wife, one of the richest couples in the Netherlands. Jacob Trip, who made much of his money as an arms dealer, had been married to Margaretha de Geer for nearly 60 years. The paintings, both in the National Gallery, were made to hang together, almost certainly in one of the grand reception rooms of a palatial new residence – the Trippenhuis – which was being built in Amsterdam for their sons.

Rembrandt creates a fascinating contrast between the couple. Their poses are asymmetrical – Margaretha meets our gaze head on, Jacob sits askew, his mind apparently elsewhere – and he uses different painting techniques. Jacob is rendered using swift, confident brushstrokes, while Margaretha’s skin and ruff are worked with great intensity and attention to detail.

Jacob died in 1661, around the time the painting was made. Perhaps Rembrandt was contrasting the fading presence of a dying man with the energy of his wife, who had another ten years to live.

Key facts
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Full title Portrait of Jacob Trip
Group Portraits of Jacob Trip and his Wife Margaretha de Geer
Date made about 1661
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 130.5 x 97 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1899
Inventory number NG1674
Location in Gallery Room 22
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Portraits of Jacob Trip and his Wife Margaretha de Geer

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In seventeenth-century Holland, it was common for married couples to be depicted separately in paintings designed to be hung as a pair, with the woman’s portrait invariably hung to the right. This placed the wife to her husband’s left – or, as it was regarded at the time, his inferior side: marriage was a partnership steered by the man.

These portraits are particularly large examples, reflecting the status of the couple, Jacob Trip and Margaretha de Geer – who belonged to one of the richest families in Holland. They were probably commissioned by two of the Trips‘ sons, to be hung in a palatial residence which they were building in Amsterdam.

The poses are unusual. Normally we’d expect each sitter to be half turned towards the other. But Margaretha faces the viewer directly. She may be sitting on her husband’s inferior side, but Rembrandt seems to imply that she is the more active and engaged of the two.

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