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Portrait of Margaretha de Geer, Wife 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. Margaretha de Geer had been married to Jacob Trip for nearly 60 years, and the two portraits, 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 two sons.

Rembrandt has created a fascinating contrast between the couple. Not only are their poses asymmetrical – Margaretha meets our gaze head on, Jacob sits askew, his mind apparently elsewhere – but he used different painting techniques. Jacob is rendered using swift, economical brushwork, 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 deliberately contrasting the fading presence of a dying man with the vibrant energy of his wife, who still had another ten years to live.

Key facts
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Full title Portrait of Margaretha de Geer, Wife of Jacob Trip
Series Portraits of Jacob Trip and his Wife Margaretha de Geer
Date made about 1661
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 130.5 x 97.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1899
Inventory number NG1675
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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