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Agatha Bas, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Agatha Bas, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1641). Agatha Bas, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1641). Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2016, RCIN 405352.

Sometimes described as one of the most penetrating portraits painted by the Dutch, and Leiden-born master, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), the painting of Agatha Bas (1611-1659) now forms part of the Royal Collection in Great Britain (RCIN 405352) and is currently on display in Buckingham Palace.

Agatha Bas and her husband, Nicolaes van Bambeeck (1596-1661) were almost neighbours of Rembrandt in Amsterdam. He painted both of them in 1641 (the same year that Rembrandt painted De Nachtwacht). The painting of the husband is now in the Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België in Brussels (see the illustration below).

The painting of Agatha Bas at Buckingham Palace not only shows Rembrandt's masterly representation of the young woman, but also, unlike in some of his other paintings, that he had a very clear eye for minute details, including that of clothing.

Her expensive, but modest outfit includes a white chemise, a pinkish skirt, an off-white stomacher with a narrow, black cord lacing and a black overdress/coat with wide sleeves. The sleeves have a vertical slit (deliberately showing the quality of the chemise underneath), whose edges are stitched together at regular intervals. This garment is fastened with a large V-shaped braid at the front. In her right hand she holds a fan. She is further adorned with a pearl necklace and bracelets, a pair of bejewelled earrings and a brooch on top of a horizontal piece of lace that covers the line created by the chemise and stomacher at the front of her clothing. Her outfit also includes a lace-edged shawl/kerchief draped over her shoulders. She wears a lace cap, the edge of which is just visible. She has a (wedding?) ring on her first finger, which was the normal place for a woman's wedding ring in seventeenth century Holland. 

Her chemise is made of a white material with bands of what appears to be whitework. The pinkish skirt is trimmed with what seems to be gold coloured lace. Her stomacher is made from a piece of cloth with (woven) slylised and gold-coloured flowers. She appears to be wearing a broad, white collar with a lace edge, which may be part of the chemise or the black overdress/coat, over which is draped the shawl/kerchief made from a square piece of material with lace edges. The shawl has been diagonally folded in half, and draped in such a manner that the lace edges of collar and shawl are visible. Similar lace can be seen on the cuffs of her (chemise or overcoat) sleeves.

Video: Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures Desmond Shawe-Taylor analyses Rembrandt's striking portrait of Agatha Bas  (click here) (retrieved 31 July 2016).

Royal Collection online catalogue (retrieved 31 July 2016).

Nicolaes van Bambeeck, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1641

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Nicolaes van Bambeeck, husband of Agatha Bas, painted by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1641. Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, Brussels.

Last modified on Sunday, 13 November 2016 20:50