Arent de GELDER
Dordrecht, 26 October 1645, baptised 11 November 1645–Dordrecht, 27 August 1727, buried 29 August in the Grote Kerk
Dutch painter and draughtsman
Arent or Aert de Gelder came from a wealthy Dordrecht family and was probably apprenticed to Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–78) in 1660. After that year he moved to Amsterdam to join the workshop of Rembrandt (1606–69). He was the last pupil the master took on, but it is not known exactly when that was. After some years he returned to Dordrecht, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Just over one hundred paintings by De Gelder are known today. He mainly concentrated on Biblical subjects, especially from the Old Testament, among which he was particularly interested in the story of Esther. It seems likely that many of them reflect his own concerns as a profoundly Christian individual. He also made portraits, which were probably commissioned. Around 1715 he painted a Passion series, which was left in his studio at his death; of the original twenty-two only twelve survive – ten in Aschaffenburg and two in the Rijksmuseum.
Throughout his long life De Gelder remained true to Rembrandt’s example, building on his master’s colour scheme and application of paint layers. He seems to have been uninterested in following fashionable trends. Presumably his wealth cushioned him from making compromises and allowed him to produce a body of work which, although it owes a debt to Rembrandt, is indisputably his own, both in his colour scheme and in his application of paint.
Lilienfeld 1920; Sumowski 1983–94, ii (1983), pp. 1154–277; Moltke 1994; Moltke 1996; Sluiter 1997; Schoon & Sluiter 1998; Sluiter 2006; Saur, li, 2006, pp. 176–8 (as Gelder, Arent de; G. Sluiter); De Witt, Van Sloten & Van der Veen 2015; Ecartico, no. 3128: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/3128 (as Aert de Gelder; 4 Jan. 2018); RKDartists&, no. 30757: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/30757 (as Arent de Gelder; 1 Mar. 2018).
Arent de Gelder
Self portrait of Arent de Gelder (1645 1727) with Rembrandt's 'Hundred guilder print' in his hand, c. 1710
canvas, oil paint 79.5 x 64.5 cm
center right : A.de Gelder:ƒ.
Sint-Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./cat.nr. 790
DPG126 – Jacob’s Dream
c. 1715; canvas, 66.7 x 56.9 cm
Signed, lower right: AD Gelder (incised in the wet paint; AD as monogram) (signature found during the cleaning of the picture in 1946)
?Vergelo-Beschey & Co., Antwerp, 23 August 1768 (Lugt 1707), lot 19: ‘A. de Gelder, Een Landschap waer in het Visioen van Jacob’ (a landscape with the Vision of Jacob);1 ?Le Brun, from Paris, Christie’s, 19 March 1785 (Lugt 3846), lot 81 (Rembrandt, Jacob’s Dream), 41 gs, bt Mr. Dillen;2 Desenfans sale, Skinner and Dyke, London, 18 March 1802 (Lugt 6380), lot 163 (‘Rembrandt – Jacob’s Dream’);3 £52 10s., bt in; handwritten note in copy of the catalogue in RKD: ‘2¾ h. 2½.’; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 29, no. 302 (‘Unhung / no. 33, Jacobs Dream, ray from clouds, Angels descend[in]g – C[anvas] Rembrandt’; 3' x 2'8").
Cat. 1817, p. 10, no. 175 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; Jacob’s Dream; Rembrandt’); Haydon 1817, pp. 387–8, no. 175;4 Cat. 1820, no. 175 (Rembrandt); Patmore 1824a, pp. 195, no. 144;5 Patmore 1824b, pp. 44–7, no. 144;6 Hazlitt 1824, p. 35;7 Cat. 1830, no. 179; Smith 1829–42, vii (1836), p. 4, no. 12 (Rembrandt. ‘Jacob’s Dream on the Plains of Padan Aran. Collection of Noel Desenfans Esq. 1802. 50 gs.’);8 William Allston in 1838, see Flagg 1893, pp. 297 and 408 (a poem);9 Samuel Palmer in 1838, see Lister & Palmer 1974, i, pp. 223–4;10 Allport 1841, p. 250;11 Jameson 1842, ii, p. 471, no. 179;12 Clarke 1842, no. 179 (‘a good effect’); Hazlitt 1843, p. 28;13 Robert Browning in 1846, see Browning 1899, i, p. 528;14 Jameson 1850, p. 50;15 Bentley’s 1851, p. 348;16 Letter from James Russell Lowell to C. E. Norton, 11 Aug. 1855, see Lowell 1894, p. 261;17 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 179; Blanc 1861, ii, p. 412;18 Samuel Palmer in 1864, see Lister & Palmer 1974, ii, p. 718;19 Sparkes 1876, p. 135, no. 179; Francis Kilvert in 1876, see Plomer & Kilvert 1944, pp. 319–20;20 Richter & Sparkes 1880, pp. 127–8, no. 179 (School of Rembrandt);21 Wallis 1881, p. 223;22 Smetham 1891, p. 233;23 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 32, no. 126 (School of Rembrandt); Lilienfeld 1914, pp. 130, 157, no. 10 (first attribution to Arent de Gelder); Cook 1914, pp. 73–5, no. 126 (School of Rembrandt);24 HdG, vi, 1915, p. 456, note 8 (Aert de Gelder); Cook 1926, pp. 69–70 (School of Rembrandt); Cat. 1953, p. 20 (Aert de Gelder); Valentiner 1956, p. 39; Van Fossen 1969, pp. 32–4, 208, 285, no. 108, fig. 112; Judson 1969, p. 73 (under no. 69);25 Białostocki & Kołoszyńska 1974, p. 40, no. 20; Wright 1976, p. 73; Kahr 1978/1993, pp. 168–9, 314, no. 134; Gerdts & Stebbins 1979, p. 99; Murray 1980a, pp. 61–2; Murray 1980b, p. 14; Sumowski 1983–94, ii (1983), pp. 1173, 1241, no. 781 (c. 1710–15); Gage 1987, pp. 104, 105 (fig. 138), 248 (note 18); Bruyn 1987, p. 227; Moltke 1994, pp. 48, 64–5, no. 9 (same period as the Passion series); Beresford 1998, pp. 112–13; Shawe-Taylor 2000, pp. 56–7; Bikker 2004, pp. 81 (fig. 28), 84; Sluiter 2006, pp. 176–7; Wyld 2010, pp. 50–52, under no. 24; Baker 2010; Evans 2014, pp. 114–15, 212 (notes 69, 70); Hadjinicolaou 2016, pp. 135–6, 137, ills 56, 57; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 92–4 (as Aert de Gelder); Plomp 2020, p. 54, fig. 43; RKD, no.13838: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/13838 (1 Jan. 2018).
London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 23 (A. Blunt; A. de Gelder); London 1952–3, p. 29, no. 107; London 1976, pp. 44–5, no. 43 (C. Brown); London/Washington/Los Angeles 1985–6, pp. 64–5, no. 11 (C. White); Tokyo/Shizuoka/Osaka/Yokohama 1986–7, pp. 78–9, no. 12 (in Japanese; C. White); Warsaw 1992, pp. 80–82, no. 12 (C. White); Dordrecht/Cologne 1998, pp. 246–7, no. 54 (J. Loughman); London 1999b (no cat. no.).
Fine plain linen canvas. Warm grey ground. The paint layers are extremely thin in most areas, in some parts consisting only of the ground layer. The artist has scored details directly into the thin wet paint with the end of his brush or thin tool; the signature in the lower right corner has also been executed in this manner. The painting has been Beva-lined with a double lining of linen canvas; the original tacking margins are absent. There is a repaired ‘T’ tear on the horizon. Previous recorded treatment: 1878, frame re-gilded; 1946, cleaned and signature revealed; 1980, strip-lined, blanched varnish treated and rrevarnished, National Maritime Museum; 1998, relined, cleaned and restored, S. Plender; 1988 Technical report, L. Sheldon.
1) Rembrandt, The Angel[s] Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634, etching and drypoint, counterproof, 262 x 220 mm. BM, London, F,4.83; 1973,U.854 (B. 44) .26
2) Arent de Gelder, Jacob’s Dream, c. 1670–90, pen and brown ink with brown wash, heightened with white, and touched with red chalk (the angel only), 215 x 179 mm. BM, London, Oo,10.120 .27
3) Arent de Gelder, Jacob’s Dream, canvas, 172.4 x 118.3 cm. Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur, 1933.3 .28
4a) (sketch for 4b) Arent de Gelder, Christ on the Mount of Olives, panel, 36 x 45 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (formerly Richard L. Feigen collection, New York).29
4b) Arent de Gelder, Christ on the Mount of Olives (part of the Passion series), canvas, 72.1 x 60.2 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Aschaffenburg, 6298.30
5) Copy: possibly by John Martin, drawing in sepia wash, no dimensions known. Private collection, Woking, 1984.31
6) Copy: John Constable, Jacob’s Dream, c. 1830–37, pen and ink and ink wash, 172 x 146 mm. Present whereabouts unknown (Andrew Wyld sale, Christie’s, 7 Oct. 2012, p. 73, lot 83) .32
7) Copy: Ralph Cockburn, Jacob’s Dream, c. 1816–20, aquatint, 225 x 178 mm (Cockburn 1830, no. 9). DPG .33
8a) Washington Allston, Jacob’s Dream, 1817, canvas, 157.5 x 238.8 cm. National Trust, Petworth House.34
8b) Print after 8a: Edward Goodall, Jacob’s Dream, 1829, etching and engraving on chine collé, 126 x 188 mm (platemark), BM, London, 1860,0811.55
9) John Scarlett Davis, Rembrandt’s Studio, 1841, canvas, 142 x 184 cm. Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, 1683 .35
10) Henry Dawe (1790–1848), Jacob’s Dream, mezzotint, hand-coloured, 175 x 127 mm, with lettering. BM, London, 1876,0708.2466.36
11) Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Vision of Jacob’s Ladder (?), c. 1830, canvas, 123.2 x 188 cm. Tate Britain, London, N05507.37
12) ‘A Picture representing the preceding subject [Jacob’s Dream on the Plains of Padan Aran] is stated to be in the collection of the Count Schonborn, at Vienna. 5 ft. ½ in. by 4 ft. 4 in. [c. 153.7 x 132 cm] – C[anvas].’38
Desenfans thought that in DPG126 he had purchased a Rembrandt, and as such it was referred to (and admired) in the early days of the Dulwich Gallery. Richter and Sparkes rejected the attribution to Rembrandt in 1880, noting that ‘The want of transparency in the colouring, and the flat modelling of the figures and trees, clearly show that his picture was not painted by Rembrandt himself’, an opinion echoed by Henry Wallis in 1881. In 1914 Lilienfeld was the first to attribute the picture to De Gelder, a suggestion confirmed by the discovery of the signature during cleaning in 1946. (The signature is incised in the paint with the brush handle, also characteristically used for the trees at the left.) As Hofstede de Groot in 1915 also observed, the style of the picture is typical of De Gelder’s late work, such as the Passion series (in Aschaffenburg and the Rijksmuseum), painted c. 1715. The hazy figures of the angels and the brilliant golden light illuminating the darkness in his Christ on the Mount of Olives, also painted late in his career (Related works, no. 4), are very comparable to DPG126. Sumowski too suggested a date of c. 1710–15.
The picture depicts an episode in Genesis (28:10–12). Jacob, who was travelling from Beersheba to Haran, lay down to sleep, and in the night he dreamt he saw a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven, on which angels were ascending and descending. In the painting Jacob can be seen at the left lying on the ground asleep in front of some trees; above, the night sky has opened to reveal a brilliant light that picks him out in the darkness. Hovering near heaven in the beam of light (rather than a ladder) are two white, shrouded, winged figures of angels.
Although Rembrandt seems never to have painted this subject, he did produce an etching of the subject with a ladder in 1655, and five drawings from throughout his career survive.39 Other Rembrandt pupils including Ferdinand Bol (1616–80) and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621–74) painted the scene with much larger figures,40 as was usual in Italian art as well. The ultimate source for the composition would seem to be Rembrandt’s etching of The Angel appearing to the Shepherds of 1634 (here shown in a counterproof: Related works, no. 1) . In a drawing of the same scene in the British Museum, recently attributed to De Gelder by Martin Royalton-Kisch (c. 1670–90), the figures are much larger than those in the present painting (Related works, no. 2) . What De Gelder changed in the Dulwich picture, painted much later (see below), is the scale: Jacob is a tiny figure in an endless landscape, where two angels are descending from the clouds in the luminous sky.
Desenfans acquired the picture as a Rembrandt in or before 1802, when it appeared in his sale of that year. Murray suggested that it might be one by De Gelder which was in the collection of Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun (1748–1813) before it was sold at Christie’s in 1785, while Frederiksen found another Jacob’s Dream mentioned in 1768. In both cases no dimensions are given, so they might be the other known Jacob’s Dream by De Gelder, now in the Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur, which is considerably larger, with much larger figures, but cut down on the right side (Related works, no. 3) .41 Moltke pointed out that this larger work was in England from at least 1857, when it was recorded in the collection of Viscount Dillon at Ditchley, Oxfordshire, on loan to the Manchester exhibition of 1857. Moltke also noted that Arent de Gelder’s inventory of 1727 (f. 281) included ‘1 groot stuk, verbeeldende Jacob en den engel’ (1 large piece, depicting Jacob and the angel), which presumably refers to the larger treatment of the theme in Winterthur.
The picture was much admired in the 19th century as an authentic Rembrandt. It even figures in a depiction of Rembrandt’s studio of 1841 by John Scarlett Davis (1804–45/6; Related works, no. 9) , next to the Nightwatch and The Shipbuilder and his Wife. Patmore described the painting as ‘extraordinary’; Mrs Jameson wrote, ‘I know nothing more wild, visionary, and poetical, than this little picture’; and Hazlitt asserted that ‘No one else could ever grapple with this subject, or stamp it on the willing canvas in its gorgeous obscurity, but Rembrandt!’ As Christopher White has noted, others impressed by it included Robert Browning, Francis Kilvert and Samuel Palmer (1805–81).42 Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) seems to have been inspired by it in a more general way (Related works, no. 11). A drawing by John Constable (1776–1837) is a magnificent interpretation of De Gelder’s painting (Related works, no. 6) . The visionary quality of De Gelder’s treatment of space and light, ‘sometimes reminiscent of Doré and sometimes of Goya’,43 appealed to that part of the 19th-century British audience who were used to and attracted by the images of William Blake (1757–1827), Johann Heinrich Füssli or Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) and John Martin (1789–1854).
Arent de Gelder
Jacob's dream: angels descend from heaven to earth (Genesis 28:12), c. 1710-1717
canvas, oil paint 66.7 x 56.9 cm
lower right : A D Gelder
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG126
Angel(s) appearing to the shepherds, 1634
paper, counterproof, etching, drypoint 262 x 220 mm
lower left : (in reverse): "Rembrandt F. 1634"
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. F,4.83
attributed to Arent de Gelder
paper, pen and brush in brown, heightened in white, red chalk 215 x 179 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. Oo,10.120
Arent de Gelder
Jacob's dream (Genesis 28:12), c. 1700
canvas, oil paint 172.4 x 118.3 cm
lower right : ADe..
Winterthur, private collection Oskar Reinhart, inv./cat.nr. 1933.3; 65 (cat. 1969)
John Constable after Arent de Gelder
Jacob’s Dream, 1830-1837
paper, pen and brush in brown 172 x 146 mm
Christie's Londen (London (England)) 2012-10-07, nr. 83
Ralph Cockburn after Arent de Gelder
paper, aquatint 225 x 178 mm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery
John Scarlett Davis
Rembrandt's studio, dated 1841
canvas, oil paint 142 x 184 cm
Hereford, Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, inv./cat.nr. 1683
1 Letter from Burton Fredericksen to Paul Matthews, 17 Jan. 2008 (DPG126 file). However in this sale catalogue no dimensions are given; so this (and the information in the next note) could also pertain to another De Gelder picture.
2 GPID (16 Aug. 2013), no dimensions given. So this might refer to the larger picture now at Winterthur (Related works, no. 3) . Moreover, Mr Dillen could be Viscount Dillon, in whose possession the larger version was in 1857, when it was shown at the Manchester Exhibition. See also notes 8 and 28 below.
3 Desenfans 1802, ii, pp. 4–5, no. 72: ‘the angels descending the ladder, and Jacob asleep in modern dress, we cannot help lamenting that Rembrandt had never studied the antique costume; […] made up for his defects, by the most exquisite beauties which are in this cabinet picture, for it is impossible not […] to admire the magic hand which has traced that mysterious ladder, and which by creating an immense volume of air, has created an immense distance from the earth to the sky, and a landscape of many miles in the compass of about two feet.’
4 ‘Rembrandt Van Rhyn. Jacob’s Dream. Seldom has this subject been so well treated. Instead of a material ladder of substantial steps, on which well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, with wings on their shoulders, have been walking up and down like waiters at a tavern serving up a dinner; we behold a mysterious, solemn twilight, on which from a bright refulgence in the heavens, a stream of light beams an immensity from earth to heaven; while winged “creatures of the element” float on the mysterious beam, obeying their great Creator’s ordnances, and impressing the patriarch with their divine mission. It is all profundity and mystery; at a distance we fancy we can make out the figures by approaching, and in approaching, again retire. It is one of the most poetical and sublime pictures we ever saw.’
5 ‘Returning for a moment to the second room, I would point out two pictures that are among the finest in this collection.’ (The first is Rubens’s St Barbara, DPG125.) There follows a long commentary which Patmore used again in his work on the Dulwich Gallery of the same year, with minor variations: see the following note.
6 (Changes between Patmore 1824a and 1824b in bold) ‘This extraordinary work is one of Rembrandt’s very finest efforts, and is perhaps the most purely poetical picture he ever produced. The subject is JACOB’S DREAM; and it may be safely stated, that, poetical and imaginative as that subject is, it was never before so poetically or imaginatively treated. The picture is quite small, and an upright one; and nearly all over it, except the centre, is spread a thick black gloom – deep as the darkness of night, and yet so transparent that, after looking at it for a while, you see or seem to see down into it, as if you were looking into deep clear water. In one corner of this darkness lies Jacob on the ground, sleeping – his arms [only one arm!] stretched beyond his head, and one knee bent up, in the most inartificial attitude that can be conceived, and altogether representing a rude shepherd-boy. Round about him, and along the front of the foreground, are scratched-in, with the wooden handle of the pencil, a few straggling shrubs: these are merely scratched out of the brown ground while it was wet – not painted in afterwards. In fact, the picture consists but of two colours: or rather it has no colour at all, but consists merely of light and shade. All the above dark part of the picture is exceedingly fine. There is an admirable keeping and consistency about it, looking at it only with a view to itself, as the immediate scene in which the solemn dream takes place. But as a contrast, to heighten the impression we receive from the representation of the dream itself, its effect is prodigious. The representation occupies the centre part of the picture; and, as a delineation of superhuman appearances and things, I conceive it to be finer than any thing within an equal space in existence. In the upper part of the sky an intense light is bursting forth, and it descends slantwise, and widening as it descends, till it reaches the sleeping youth – gradually decreasing in splendour as it recedes from its apparent source: and at different intervals of this road of light, winged figures are seen descending. In the whole circle of art there are not to be pointed out more unequivocal strokes of genius than these figures. They are as purely poetical creations as any that ever proceeded even from the pen. They are not like any thing that was ever seen or described. All the angels that I have ever seen depicted or described are but winged mortals; but these angels, which Jacob sees, are no more like mortals than they are like any thing else; they are altogether of the air, airy, and if they must be likened to any thing, it is to birds; though we probably gain this association simply on account of their having wings like birds – for they resemble them in nothing else: they are not flying, but gliding down perpendicularly, as if borne up on the collected rays of light; and their outspread wings seem used only to keep them in this erect position as they descend. I conceive this picture to be worthy the deepest study and attention, and that the more it is studied, the more its extraordinary, and what may safely called peculiar merit, will be discovered and acknowledged.’
7 ‘This room is rich in master-pieces. Here is the Jacob’s Dream, by Rembrandt, with that sleeping figure, thrown like a bundle of clothes in one corner of the picture, by the side of some stunted bushes, and with those winged shapes, not human, nor angelical, but bird-like, dream-like, treading on clouds, ascending, descending, through the realms of endless light, that loses itself in infinite space! No one else could ever grapple with this subject, or stamp it on the willing canvass in its gorgeous obscurity, but Rembrandt!’
8 Smith goes on (on the same page) to mention a second picture with the same subject, no. 13, see Related works, no. 12, with note 38.
9 p. 297. Letter from William Allston to a Mr Cogdell, 21 Oct. 1838: ‘I remember one of Rembrandt’s finest pictures owing its whole sublimity to the background alone. Rembrandt, as you know, had no excellence in form, though no one ever surpassed him in expression, even in its widest sense; for he was a poet in all else. The picture I allude to is “Jacob´s Dream,” which consisted of only three figures, Jacob and two angels; the figure of Jacob about six inches in length, asleep on the ground, and nothing better than a drowsy Dutchman; but the angels, which were only two inches in height, and of course too small to indicate more than the general air, were from the skill with which they expressed that air, in the remote distance more like angels than anything I have seen on canvas. And they owed this to the background, the midnight sky, the fathomless darkness – I might almost say the permeable pitch – in which they moved, while the two hardly visible lines of light which formed the ladder seemed to sway with the night-breeze. Nothing could be more simple than these few materials, yet he did contrive to make out of them one of the sublimest pictures I know.’
10 Letter of Samuel Palmer to Mr and Mrs Linnell, 27 Oct. 1838: ‘Jacob’s dream would be a beautiful subject and from the fine effect it suggests – very suitable for exhibition. Anny intends if we live to make a little copy of Rembrandt’s at Dulwich [note 7: ‘Aert de Gelder. It is No. 126, Jacob’s dream’] to hang with a few other intense little bits of the old master over our fire place – which after a cup of tea will be very pleasing to look upon.’
11 ‘Jacob’s Dream, by Rembrandt, a perfect miracle as regards atmospheric effect, though by no means deserving the unqualified encomiums which have been passed upon it in other respects.’
12 ‘Within the realm of creative art, I know nothing more wild, visionary and poetical, than this little picture. The only thing I remember comparable to it as a conception is the etching of “the Angels appearing to the Shepherds by night,” also by Rembrandt.’
13 The text is almost the same as in Hazlitt 1824 (see note 7), but the number ‘179’ is added.
14 Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Tuesday (postmark 3 March 1846): ‘First and most important of all, – dearest, “angry” – with you, and for that! It is just as if I had spoken contemptuously of that Gallery I so love and so am grateful to – having been used to go there when a child, far under the age allowed by the regulations – those two Guidos, the wonderful Rembrandt of Jacob’s vision, such a Watteau.’
15 ‘Strange to say, the most poetical painter of angels in the seventeenth century is that inspired Dutchman, Rembrandt; not that his angels are scriptural, still less classical; and beautiful they are not, certainly – often the reverse; but if they have not the Miltonic dignity and grace, they are at least as unearthly and as poetical as any of the angelic phantasms of Dante, – unhuman, unembodied creatures, compounded of light and darkness, “the somewhat between a thought and a thing,” haunting the memory like apparitions. For instance, look at his Jacob’s Dream, at Dulwich; or his etching of the Angels appearing to the Shepherds, – breaking through the night, scattering the gloom, making our eyes ache with excess of glory, the Gloria in excelsis ringing through the fancy while we gaze!’
16 ‘But here – here Monsieur Jules [the companion of the writer during the visit to DPG], is the picture! “Jacob’s Dream,” by Rembrandt. Often as I have visited the Dulwich Gallery, I have always left it equally astonished and impressed by this small picture – sketch, it might almost be called. Let us sit down here and carefully examine it.’
17 ‘It was also a great pleasure to me that I discovered Rembrandt – not all of him, but his mastery in portrait. Surely in this he comes next to the great Venetians. I say not all of him – for I had not then seen his Jacob’s Dream at Dulwich College. It is full of imagination and grandeur – and yet perfectly Dutch, too, for Jacob is nothing but a Flemish peasant, even to the costume. But those wondrous angels! There are only two, and yet they are enough – so dim and dreamy and majestic they are, and one thinks he can make out hosts of them in that darkling glory behind. It is just a brown heath, with one brown dream of a tree, under which lies a brown Jacob. Everything is brown but the two grey angels, both draped below the feet, and with such soft silent wings – yet so full of sweep and sustentation! Henceforward I am to be thankful for another great genius. We met Browning and his wife there, and Browning pointed out to us some reeds behind Jacob, evidently scratched in with the handle of the brush, showing how rapidly it had been painted.’
18 Nous avons vu il y a quelques années le Songe de Jacob, au collège de Dulwich; il est resté dans notre pensée comme une vision. Ce qui peut en donner une certaine idée, ce sont quelques eaux-fortes du maître, par exemple l’Annonciation aux Bergers; mais le noir et le blanc ne suffisent plus à exprimer ces êtres mystérieux qui, dans le petit tableau dont je parle, semblent pétris avec de la lumière et respirer l’air des régions ultra-célestes. Ce sont des figures étranges qui ne sont ni humaines ni angéliques, mais comme des oiseaux vus en rêve […] et au-dessus de tout cela une autre figure sort des abîmes de la lumière. (A few years ago we saw Jacob’s Dream, at Dulwich College; it has stayed in our mind like a vision. What can give an idea of it are some etchings by the master, for example the Annunciation to the Shepherds; but black and white are no longer sufficient to express these mysterious beings who, in the small picture of which I speak, seem to be moulded by light and to breathe the air of ultra-celestial regions. They are strange figures that are neither human nor angelic, but like birds seen in a dream […] and above all this another figure emerges from the depths of light.)
19 Letter from Samuel Palmer to Miss Louisa Twining, 22 Nov. 1864: ‘On a small piece of paper half the size of 1/8th imperial, washing it all with Cologne earth before you begin (excepting highest part of light in sky), you might make yourself a little treasure to hang up, from that Jacob’s Dream of Rembrandt [note 7 in Lister & Palmer: now Aert de Gelder].’
20 24 June 1876: ‘Walked to sweet green Dulwich and visited the picture gallery. […] the strange solitary white angel still hovered down through the gloom in Jacob’s Dream.’
21 ‘The want of transparency in the colouring, and the flat modelling of the figures and trees clearly show that this picture was not painted by Rembrandt himself.’
22 ‘“Jacob’s Dream” (No. 179), that till recently bore his [Rembrandt’s] name […] But we are inclined to agree with Dr. Richter, […] that it is from the easel of one of Rembrandt’s scholars or imitators. We cannot reconcile these “figures étranges qui ne sont ni humaines ni angéliques, mais comme des oiseaux vus en rêve,” as M. Charles Blanc describes them [see note 18 above], with the energetic creations of the master. […] In other respects, too, the painting is thinner and the conception weaker than we find in any of his authentic pictures.’
23 Letter from James Smetham to ‘T. A.’, not dated: ‘It is always “Jacob’s Dream” which turns the scale as to whether I come to Dulwich or no. Hazlitt wrote about Jacob’s Dream in the London Magazine somewhere about 1824. Hazlitt! Where’s Hazlitt? But “Jacob’s Dream” is there; every tint and every scratch of the pencil in the trees is there. That picture was painted between Rembrandt’s breakfast and his tea, on a late October day, when the wind was sighing and the leaves falling. I know it was.’
24 ‘Dr. Richter, in the Catalogue of 1880, took the picture away from Rembrandt […] and other critics have endorsed his verdict, some assigning it to Rembrandt’s pupil, Salomon Koninck. However this may be, the design of the picture is intensively Rembrandtesque – in its sense of grandeur, and in its unconventional treatment of a Biblical subject. Visitors who are not too much under the tyranny of names may well feel free still to study the picture carefully. None in the Gallery has been more admired by judges of repute […] Hazlitt […] Jameson […] James Russell Lowell […] James Smetham.’
25 The picture later in the Feigen Collection (Related works, no. 4).
26 There are several states of this print in the BM: a first state, F,4.80; impressions of a later state and a counterproof, see F,4.81–84; 1848,0911.24, 1868,0822.662. The counterproof is chosen here, as its orientation is the same as that of the De Gelder painting. RKD, no. 287631: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287631 (Jan. 9, 2018); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_F-4-83 (July 2, 2020).
27 RKD, no. 287637: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287637 (Jan. 9, 2018). This drawing was formerly attributed to two other Rembrandt pupils, Ferdinand Bol and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout. See https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_Oo-10-120 (July 2, 2020); see there for the online catalogue entry, Royalton-Kisch 2010, cat. no. 3 (attributed to Arent de Gelder).
28 RKD, no. 3794: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/3794 (Jan. 4, 2018). According to Reinhard-Felice 2003, pp. 220–22, no. 35 (P. Wegmann), the picture is cut down on the right side by approx. 6 cm and enlarged probably approx. 10 cm at the top (p. 220; so the dimensions would have been c. 178.4 x 108.3 cm). The provenance (abridged) given on p. 220 is: De Gelder 1727; Viscount Dillon 1857; Dillon sale 1933; Tancred Borenius; Collection Reinhart, Winterthur; so there is a gap of 130 years between 1727 and 1857. See also Hadjinicolaou 2016, p. 156, ill. 72 (colour) on p. 157; Moltke 1994, pp. 16, 40, 48, 65, 88, no. 10 (colour pl. IV and figs 10, 10a and 10b); Manchester 1857, p. 53, no. 687 (Rembrandt. Jacob’s Dream. Smith’s Cat., no. 12, Viscount Dillon). However according to Smith his Cat. no. 12 was in 1802 in the possession of Desenfans, so that is DPG126. Did the Manchester catalogue mean Smith no. 13 (see Related works, no. 12)? Or was there a third picture with this subject by De Gelder? See also Related works, no. 12, with note 38.
29 Sumowski 1983–94, ii (1983), pp. 1170, 1226, no. 766.
30 ibid., pp. 1170, 1227, no. 767.
31 Letter from John Anderson to the Curator, 19 March 1984 (DPG126 file).
34 Gerdts & Stebbins 1979, pp. 97–100, 131, 154, 165, 190 (fig. 39), 234, 239, 240; Gage 1987, p. 248 (note 18).
35 RKD, no. 287641: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/287641 (Jan. 12, 2018); see also https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/rembrandts-studio-52851 (Jan. 3, 2018); Hobbs 2004, pp. 69, 84, and colour plate.
36 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1876-0708-2466 (July 2, 2020).
37 https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-the-vision-of-jacobs-ladder--n05507 (July 2, 2020). See Loughman in Schoon & Sluiter 1998, p. 246, no. 54.
38 Smith 1829–42, vii (1836), p. 4, no. 13. Smith must have based this information on a publication (a catalogue of this collection?), which could not be found. No De Gelder picture can be found in the current Schönborn collection in Vienna. In the publication of 17th- and 18th-century sources of the Schönborns De Gelder is not mentioned, and Rembrandt only once, in a letter of 26 June 1725, where a painting by Rembrandt is mentioned, but without any further indication of the subject or the dimensions of the painting; Freeden, Hantsch & Scherf 1931–55, p. 997 no. 1302. However there is a rather small Jacob’s Dream (29 x 24 cm) there, now considered to be by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout: see Kersting 2003, pp. 102–3. Or is it possible that Smith no. 13 was sold from the Schönborn collection and in or before 1857 came into the collection of Viscount Dillon (which ended up in Winterthur, see Related works, no. 3)? However the dimensions of the Winterthur picture were probably c. 178.4 x 108.3 cm, which is different from the dimensions of the Schönborn painting as mentioned by Smith (c. 153.7 x 132 cm). Or was there a third picture with this subject – the missing Schönborn picture? In any case, Count Schönborn is not mentioned under the provenance of the Winterthur picture: see Reinhard-Felice 2003, p. 220, no. 35. See also notes 8 and 28 above.
39 For the etching see Bartsch no. 36; the five drawings are numbered Benesch 125, 555, 557, 558 and 996. There is also a pupil’s drawing of the scene with corrections by Rembrandt (Benesch 1381): BM, London, Oo,10.119.
40 For Bol see Sumowski 1983–94, i (1983), p. 291, no. 80; for Van den Eeckhout, Sumowski 1983–94, ii (1983), nos 395, 469, 481.
41 There might even have been a third version: see notes 8, 28 and 38, in which a picture in the collection of Count Schönborn in Vienna is mentioned.
42 C. White in Waterfield & Brown 1985, p. 64, no. 11. For Palmer see also notes 10 and 19 above.
43 Bruyn 1987, p. 227.