Agatha Bas

This is one of the most beautiful portraits in the Royal Collection. Its companion, in the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, depicts Nicolaes van Bembeeck (1596 - 1661), a wool merchant who had married Agatha Bas (1611-58) in 1638. It is also signed and dated 1641. The couple lived in the Sint Anthoniesbreestraat, where Rembrandt himself lived from 1631; they were almost certainly known to the artist.
Rembrandt introduced a new compositional device in this painting: the figure is posed within a painted ebony frame which blurs the boundaries between the imaginary space within the composition and the real world outside. The sense of direct contact with the sitter is achieved partly through the striking gesture of the hand resting against the frame and partly by showing the fan protruding over the edge towards the viewer's space. An earlier reduction in the size of the canvas has considerably reduced this illusionistic effect.
The different levels of finish in the painting are particularly striking. For instance, Rembrandt portrays the fine hairs at the edge of the hairline through curling lines incised into the paint with the end of the brush, and in contrast to such direct handling the depiction of Agatha Bas's skin and eyes is remarkably subtle and delicate.

Louis Bernard Coclers (Amsterdam), 1805; imported into England by Nieuwenhuys and offered at Christie's, London, 29 June 1814 (76); bought in; subsequently bought by John Smith; by whom sold to Lord Charles Townshend; his sale, Robins, London, 4 June 1819 (32); bought by Lord Yarmouth for George IV (£74 10s.)

About Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

A prolific painter, draftsman, and etcher, Rembrandt van Rijn is considered the greatest artist of Holland's Golden Age. He worked from direct observation, and despite the evolution of his style over the course of his career, Rembrandt’s compelling descriptions of light, space, atmosphere, modeling, texture, and human affect are the result of intense perceptual study. A prominent portraitist, Rembrandt is most famous for The Night Watch (1642), a monumental painting of militia guards that features Rembrandt’s distinctive use of chiaroscuro.

Dutch, 1606-1669, Leiden, Netherlands, based in Amsterdam and Leiden, Holland

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

2016
Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2016
Rembrandt in Black & White, Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR), Brussels
2015
Asia > Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
2014
Rembrandt: The Late Works, The National Gallery, London, London