REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
(b. 1606, Leiden, d. 1669, Amsterdam)

Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels

1651-55
Oil on canvas, 100 x 84 cm
National Gallery, London

Rembrandt did share his later years with Hendrickje Stoffels (1626-1663) who had become his live-in companion and she was even more featured as his subject than Saskia had been. She is first mentioned as a member of Rembrandt's household in a document of 1 October 1649. She was then about twenty-three. She bore him a daughter, Cornelia, in 1654 and remained with him until her death in 1663. Rembrandt never married her, presumably because a second marriage would have deprived him of the much-needed income from Saskia's dowry, held in trust under the terms of her will for their son, Titus. In 1654, shortly before she bore a daughter, Cornelia, Hendrickje was officially censured by the church council for living in sin.

Hendrickje Stoffels is nowhere explicitly identified in Rembrandt's art. However, there exist up to half-a-dozen portraits of an attractive, round-faced woman, showing her at different ages, painted during the period when Hendrickje lived with Rembrandt as his mistress, and these are generally agreed to be of her. They reveal an affection and degree of intimacy between artist and sitter that would be inconceivable in a commissioned portrait, and at the same time the face is too strongly characterized for it to be that of an anonymous model. The full-bodied nude of the 1654 Bathsheba has traditionally been identified with Hendrickje and accords well with her numerous portraits and studies.

The present portrait is one of the most private in all Rembrandt's work. It is very quiet and dignified in mood but also sensuous, even sensual, in feeling.