Last time on Fact Friday, we showed you Rembrandt’s portrait of the rich merchant Jacob Trip from c. 1661. Around the same time Rembrandt also painted the pendant of this work: a portrait of Margaretha de Geer, Jacob Trip’s wife.
Instead of respectfully turning towards her husband, in line with the common practice for marriage portraits like these, Margaretha de Geer is looking straight ahead with a severe look on her face. Just like her husband, she is wearing informal and quite old-fashioned clothing. Her white handkerchief might be a sign of a recent loss; her husband died around the same time these portraits were executed. However, it is not certain that Jacob Trip had already passed away when this painting was made. If not, the handkerchief is just an old-fashioned accessory.
X-ray analysis of this painting has revealed that Rembrandt made numerous alterations to the composition. The most striking alteration being the positioning of Margaretha’s hand; originally her hand was resting in her lap, but now we see how she’s grabbing hold of the arm of the chair. This position enhances her authoritative and determined air. Don’t let her advanced age fool you: after the death of her husband, Margaretha single-handedly reigned over one of the most powerful and influential families for over ten years. [Source: Catalogue Late Rembrandt, The National Gallery Londen – Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2014-2015]
On the left: Rembrandt, Portrait of Jacob Trip, c. 1661. The National Gallery, London
On the right: Rembrandt, Portrait of Margaretha de Geer, c. 1661. The National Gallery, London