Old Man with a Gold Chain

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Dutch, 1606–1669

Old Man with a Gold Chain, 1631

Oil on panel
32 3/4 x 29 3/4 in. (83.1 x 75.7 cm)
Monogram RHL at lower left
Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection, 1922.4467

Throughout his career, Rembrandt painted masterful studies of single figures, conveying character through dramatic costume and lighting. Here the craggy features of the old man, a model who appears frequently in Rembrandt's early work, contrast poignantly with his worldly trappings: a gold chain, steel gorget, and plumed beret. The ambitious young artist conveyed a sense of arrested movement in this powerful figure which was probably painted in 1631, just after he left his native Leiden to make his name in the thriving commercial center of Amsterdam.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Sammlung des Kgl. Rates Marczell von Nemes, Budapest, 1912, no. 43.

Detroit Institute of Arts, Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Rembrandt, no. 8.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, 1933, no. 74

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, 1934, no. 104

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings by Rembrandt and his Circle, 1935/1936, traveled to Worcester Art Museum

New York, Wildenstein and Co., Loan Exhibition of Rembrandt, Under the High Patronage of His Excellency, Dr. Eelco N. van Kleffens, Ambassador of the Netherlands, for the Benefit of the Public Education Association, 1950, no. 2.

Art Institute of Chicago, European Portraits 1600-1900 in The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, no. 2.

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter, draughtsman, etcher, 2003/2004, no. 30, traveled to Art Institute of Chicago

Publication History

Wilhelm Bode, “Der junge Rembrandt und seine Werkstatt: Betrachtungen vor einem Bildnis von Rembrandts Vater im Besitz von Herrn Julius Boehler in München,”Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst n.s. 23 (1912), pp. 210-12, ill.

Francis de Miomandre, “Les Idées d’un amateur d’art (Collection Marcel de Nemes),”L’Art et les Artistes 16 (1913), pp. 249-50, ill. 255.

Wilhellm R. Valentiner, The Art of the Low Countries, Garden City, New York, 1914, p. 243, no. 6.

C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century Based on the Work of John Smith, trans. Edward G. Hawke, vol. 6, 1916, pp. 321-22, no. 675.

Anne Lisle Booth, “Sympathy in Portrait Painting,” The Fine Arts Journal 35 (1917), p. 106 ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, Paintings, and Drawings, Chicago, 1920, p. 60, no. 764.

“Notes. The Kimball Collection,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 14 (1920), p. 77.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Rembrandt. Wiedergefundene Gemälde (1910-1920), Klassiker der Kunst, Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921, pp. 17 ill, XVI, no. 19.

Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report, Chicago, 1922, ill. p. 50.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture and Paintings, Chicago, 1922, p. 65, no. 764.

John C. van Dyck, Rembrandt and his School. A Critical Study of the Master and his Pupils with a New Assignment of their Pictures, New York, 1923, p. 111.

Walter Heil, “Die Rembrandt-Ausstellung in Detroit,” Pantheon 6 (1930), p. 380.

Josephine Walther, “The First Great Rembrandt Exhibition in America,” The Antiquarian, 14, 5 (1930), p. 82.

Alan Burroughs, “New Illustrations of Rembrandt’s Style,” Burlington Magazine 59 (1931), p. 4, pl. IIB (x-radiograph detail).

Wilhelm R. Valentiner, Rembrandt Paintings in America, New York, 1931, n. pag, , no. 5, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection, Chicago, 1932, pp. 17-19, ill.

“Will Show Rembrandt with His Pupils’ Work, Art Digest, 34, 5 (1935), p. 7.

“Chicago Art Institute to Hold Rembrandt Exhibition,” Art News 34, 10 (1935), p. 3.

A[braham] Bredius, the Paintings of Rembrandt, Vienna and London, 1937, p. 5, no. 81, fig. 81.

Jakob Rosenberg, Rembrandt, Cambridge, Mass., 1948, pp. 43, 256, fig. 60.; rev. ed. Rembrandt, Life and Work, London, 1964, p. 71, fig. 60.

Ludwig Münz, “Rembrandts Bild von Mutter und Vater,”Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien n.s. 14 (1953), p. 166.

“Rembrandt and His Circle, Chicago,” The American Magazine of Art 29 (1936), p. 49.

Claude Roger Marx, Rembrandt, [Paris], [1960], p. 124, no. 22, ill.

Kurt Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde, Berlin, 1966, p. 9, no. 129, fig. 129.

Horst K. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, Amsterdam, 1968, pp. 18, 30, no. 46, fig. 46.

Giovanni Arpino and Paolo Lecaldano, Rembrandt, Milan, 1969, n. pag., no. 45, ill.

Horst Gerson, Rembrandt, The Complete Edition of the Paintings by A. Bredius, rev. ed. of Bredius 1937, London, 1971, p. 554, no. 81, fig. 81.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, ed. V. Loewinson-Lessing, Leningrad, 1975, n. pag., under no. 2.

Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Masterpieces, Chicago, 1978, p. 20.

Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 1, 1625-1631, ed. J. Bruyn, B. Haak, S.H. Levie, P.J.J. van Thiel, and E. van de Wetering, The Hague, Boston and London, 1982, pp. 391-7, ill., figs. 1, 2-6, no. A42.

Gary Schwartz, Rembrandt, his life, his paintings, New York, 1985, p. 65, fig. 54.

Peter C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America, Grand Rapids, 1986, pp. 49-50, fig. 66.

Art Institute of Chicago Master Paintings, Chicago 1988, ed., James N. Wood and Katharine Lee, Chicago, 1988, p. 30, ill.

Walter Liedtke, “Dutch Paintings in America. The Collectors and their Ideals” in Great Dutch Paintings in America, exh.cat,, The Hague, Mauritshuis, 1990, p. 35.

Ernst van de Wetering, “The invisible Rembrandt: the Results of technical and Scientific Examination” in Rembrandt: The Master and his Workshop, exh. cat., Berlin, Altes Museum, 1991 (traveled to Amsterdam and London), p. 92, fig. 113.

Walter Liedtke, “Rembrandt’s ‘Man in a gorget and plumed cap’ in J. Paul Getty Museum,” Burlington Magazine 137 (1995), p. 460.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship, exh. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995, vol. 2, p. 44, under no. 2.

Ernst van de Wetering, Rembrandt. The Painter at Work, Amsterdam, 1997, p. fig. 13.

Ben Broos, “Rembrandt and his picturesque universe. The artist’s collection as a source of inspiration” in Rembrandt’s Treasures, exh. cat., Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, 1999, p. 124, fig. 83.

A[lan] C[hong] in Rembrandt Creates Rembrandt. Art and Ambition in Leiden, 1629-1631, exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 2000, p. 123, under no. 17, fig. 17a

Ownership History

Jacob Alewijn, Amsterdam; by descent to his widow Margaretha Helena Graafland (died 1766); sold Amsterdam, June 10, 1767, no. 14, to Ketelaar, “Rembrandt. Het Hoofd van een Oud Man, zynde een Kniestuk, Levensgroote, met een dokere Mantel om, en een gouden Keten met een Medaille om den hals. Het hoofd is van vooren en op zyde te zien; gekeerd naar den linker Schouder, en gedekt met een Fluweelen Muts, voorzien met een groote Pluim. Zynde zeer helder, krachtig en uitvoorig op Paneel geschilderd. Hoog 35, breed 30 duim”(The head of an old man, knee-length and life size, wearing a dark cloak and a golden chain with a medallion around his neck. The head is seen from the front and to one side, turned toward the left shoulder, and covered with a velvet cap with a large plume. 90 x 77.1 cm) [For the identification of the consignor at this sale, see Rembrandt Research Project 1982, with evidence that the height of the picture was later slightly reduced]. Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, Tew Park, Oxfordshire; his estate sale Christie’s, London, December 9, 1911, no. 14, as the Father of Rembrandt for £220 10s. to Shepherd [annotated sale catalogue at Frick Art Reference Library; for the identity of 1922.4467 and the painting in the Boulton sale, see Bode 1912]. Lippmann, London, with a half share acquired by P. and D. Colnaghi, London, February 12, 1912 [letter from Lavinia Davies, Colnaghi, to Susan Wise, 28 November, 1977 in curatorial file]; Colnaghi sold their share in March, 1912, with Lippmann, Knoedler, and Julius Böhler, Munich sharing ownership in the picture [letter of Lavinia Davies cited above]; sold by Böhler to Marczell de Nemes, Budapest, 17 June, 1912; offered for sale Galerie Manzi, Joyant, Paris, 17-18 June, 1913, no. 60, as Portrait du père de Rembrandt, bought in and returned to Julius Böhler in July 1913 [letter from Julius Böhler to Susan Wise, September 20, 1977 in curatorial file]; sold by Julius Böhler to Reinhardt, New York [letter from Böhler cited above; in a letter of June 14, 1977, Julius Böhler noted that Reinhardt was the American representative for their firm]; sold to Mrs. W. W. Kimball, (died 1921), Chicago, by 1914 [Valentiner 1914]; lent to the Art Institute when?; bequeathed, 1922.