Last week in the first part of this Fact Friday, we showed you Rembrandt’s painting Girl in a Picture Frame from 1641. This painting is part of a “set” of two paintings, although we can’t really consider them pendants. Our question was, ‘What other painting are we referring to?’ This week it’s time for the answer! It’s Rembrandt’s painting A Scholar at his Writing Table from 1641, part of the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
The first records mentioning Girl in a Picture Frame and A Scholar at his Writing Table as pendants date from 1769, when they were part of Kamecke’s collection in Berlin. In reality the pictures are not pendants, despite the fact they were considered to constitute a pair for most of their history. In Rembrandt’s pendants, men’s portraits are always the left piece and the sitters in both portraits face each other, as we have seen for instance in the case of Jacob Trip and Margaretha de Geer.
Rembrandt’s Girl in a Picture Frame and A Scholar at his Writing Table were most likely linked together by their given titles at the time: Jewish Bride and Father of the Jewish Bride. These panels were also cut to a similar size: picture pairs were often more popular on the art market than single works.
When we zoom in on The Scholar at his Writing Table, we see an old bearded man sitting at a table with an open book on it. He’s wearing a dark fur coat and black beret, and seems to ponder over his writings. As with Girl in a Picture Frame, Rembrandt has applied a hint of illusionism in this painting; the book seems to be crossing the painting’s physical surface, into the observer’s world.
On the left: Rembrandt, Girl in a Picture Frame, 1641. Royal Castle, Warsaw. On the right:. Rembrandt, A Scholar at his Writing Table, 1641. Royal Castle, Warsaw.
[Source: J. Chernichowska, R. Dmowska, A. Nowicka, ‘Two paintings by Rembrandt: “Girl in a picture frame” and “Scholar at his writing table” from the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw – history, examination and conservation.’, 2011]