DOU, Gerrit
(b. 1613, Leiden, d. 1675, Leiden)

Old Woman Reading a Bible

c. 1630
Oil on wood, 71 x 56 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Young Dou admired and imitated Rembrandt, his teacher, closely. He frequently used Rembrandt's schemes and paraphernalia. A comparison of his Old Woman Reading a Bible (also called Rembrandt's Mother) with Rembrandt's Old Woman Reading (1631) in the same museum shows the master's superiority and the pupil's limitations. The face Dou painted is like a mask; it has a frozen surface which appears to have been over-exposed to the light.

The woman is reading about the entry of Jesus into Jericho, an episode from St Luke's Gospel. The illustration shows the tax-collector Simon, who climbed into a tree to observe the event. Jesus, who is shown looking up at him, went to the man's house despite his disciples' objections to his visiting a tax-collector, for the profession was considered corrupt. To Protestants, the story proved that sinners are saved by faith.