Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1956.228
People
Ferdinand Bol, Dutch (Dordrecht 1616 - 1680 Amsterdam)
Title
Woman in Window with a Pear
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1651
Culture
Dutch
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/297018
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink and gray wash over black chalk, incised, on cream antique laid paper, partial framing line in black chalk; verso: blackened with black chalk
Dimensions
14.4 x 11.7 cm (5 11/16 x 4 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: verso, lower left, black ink, stamp: L. 549 (Sir Charles Greville)
  • watermark:
    Fragment of a foolscap with five-pointed collar; variant of Ash, Fletcher, and Filedt Kok 1998, p. 99, F.c., and Hinterding 2006, vol. 2, pp. 122– 23, F.c.a. and F.c.b. (c. 1653)
Provenance
Sir Charles Greville, (L. 549, verso, lower left) by descent; to his nephew, George Guy Greville, Fourth Earl of Warwick, Warwick Castle (without the family mark, L. 2600), by descent; to Charles Guy Fulke Greville, Seventh Earl of Warwick, sold; [Sotheby's, London, 17 March 1936, part of lot 128];* to [Edward Speelman, London]. [Schaeffer Galleries, New York], sold; to Leroy M. Backus, Seattle; [Schaeffer Galleries, New York], sold; to [Robert M. Light & Co., Boston], sold; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1956; Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund, 1956.228.

*In the 1936 Sotheby’s sale from the Earl of Warwick's collection, the Fogg drawing and another small study by Bol executed primarily in gray wash, Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret (Sumowski Drawings, 1, no. 143x), were sold as a single lot in one frame. In his entry on the Fogg study (Drawings 1, no. 105), Sumowski describes the drawing formerly in the Earl of Warwick collection as a separate work--“A pen and wash drawing of the same representation (127 x 101 mm), perhaps the conceptional (sic) sketch for the present drawing”--but they are one in the same. The dimensions he gives for the putative sketch are those of Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret, which is smaller than the Fogg sheet, and this is perhaps why he assumed that the Warwick Woman in a Window with a Pear was another version of the composition.
Published Text
Catalogue
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
Authors
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Publisher
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 9 by William W. Robinson:

Ferdinand Bol, one of the few Rembrandt pupils who produced a substantial oeuvre of prints, executed more than twenty etchings.2 The Harvard design served as the model for a signed and dated plate of 1651 (Fig. 1).3 As one of four studies that are directly preparatory to etchings, it belongs to the core group of Bol’s autograph drawings.4 The dimensions of the sheet correspond exactly to those of the platemark of the print, which reproduces the image in reverse. Bol coated the verso of the drawing with black chalk and meticulously incised the recto to transfer the image to the etching ground, tracing with a stylus the contours of the figure, details of the costume, and some of the outlines of the shutter and window. The study established the composition and overall distribution of light and shadow, but it lacks the pictorial refinements and tonal gradations introduced during work on the plate.5 There, Bol also added or changed several details: the cross-piece on the shutter, the necklace, the contour of the extended arm, and, on the proper left sleeve, the cuff and decorative trim at the shoulder. He also animated the bland facial expression of the drawing, giving the woman in the etching an alluring halfsmile and replacing her sideways glance with heavy-lidded eyes, enveloped by delicate shading, that directly engage the viewer.

The composition of Woman in a Window with a Pear recalls paintings of half-length figures at a window executed in the 1640s and 1650s by Bol and other Rembrandt pupils.6 Bol’s The Toper resembles the Harvard drawing and the related etching in more than its setting (Fig. 2).7 The poses and gestures are virtually identical, as are a few details of the invented, historicizing costumes, such as the slashed sleeves and cuffs on the resting arms of both figures. The Toper is not dated, but evidently preceded the drawing and print. Bol transformed the man on the canvas into a woman in the Harvard study, retaining some parts of the costume and modifying others. The feminization of the costume continued on the etching plate, where he added the necklace and reduced and altered the cuff that he had copied faithfully from the painting into the drawing. Scholars have dated The Toper to circa 1650–51 on the basis of its relationship to the print.8

With his coarse features, ill-humored expression, and capacious roemer (drinking glass), the toper must exemplify the negative consequences of excessive drinking.9 Similarly, the woman’s anachronistic clothing, provocative décolleté, desultory glance, and improbable offering attest that this is not a scene from everyday life, but an allusive representation of morally questionable behavior. The meaning of the pear in this context probably derives from proverbial and emblem literature, where the fruit is invoked to construct a metaphor for a maiden’s conduct in courtship.10 In his Minne-spiegel ter deughden (1639), Jan Harmensz. Krul likens pears that have fallen from the tree to young women who too readily offer themselves in love.

The pear that one picks, and cuts from the branch
Is better than the pear that has slipped from the stem.
No maiden who all too hastily falls in love
Has ever attracted a keen lover’s fancy.11

Far from embodying the modesty and reserve that moralists prescribed for women in courtship, our protagonist emerges from the private realm to make a public display of the metaphorically charged fruit, not to mention her bosom, to the street.

Notes

1 (This note refers to the provenance.) In the 1936 Sotheby’s sale from the Earl of Warwick’s collection, the Harvard drawing and another small study by Bol executed primarily in gray wash, Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret (Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, New York, 1979, vol. 1, cat. 143x; see note 4), were sold as a single lot in one frame. In his entry on the Harvard study in volume 1, cat. 105, Sumowski describes the drawing formerly in the Warwick collection as a separate work—“A pen and wash drawing of the same representation (127 × 101 mm), perhaps the conceptional sketch for the present drawing”—but they are one and the same. The dimensions he gives for the putative sketch are those of Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret, which is smaller than the Harvard sheet, and this is perhaps why he assumed that the Warwick Woman in a Window with a Pear was another version of the composition. A painting of this subject appeared at Anderson Galleries, New York, 25–26 March 1931, lot 104, repr.

2 See Leonore van Sloten, Ferdinand Bol: Etsen in eigen huis = Etchings at the artist’s home (Amsterdam: Museum van Loon, 2000), p. 10, and John Marciari, From Rembrandt’s Studio: The Prints of Ferdinand Bol (San Diego: San Diego Museum of Art, 2009), pp. 6–7, where twenty-one and twenty-two etchings, respectively, are attributed to Bol.

3 Ferdinand Bol, Woman with a Pear (Fig. 1), 1651, Hollstein, vol. 3, no. 15, p. 29. Etching and drypoint; 145 × 118 mm. London, British Museum, F,6.182.

4 The other three drawings that served as studies for etchings are: Holy Family in an Interior, London, British Museum, Martin Royalton-Kisch, Catalogue of Drawings by Rembrandt and His School in the British Museum, (London, 2010), Bol.3, for the etching see Hollstein, vol. 3, no. 4, p. 18; Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret, Sumowski, vol. 1, cat. 143x, formerly collection of Theodor H. Cremer, Mount Kisco, NY, sale, Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 17 November 1980, lot 62, for the etching see Hollstein, vol. 3, no. 10, p. 24; and Abraham Preparing to Sacrifice Isaac, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des arts graphiques, collection E. Rothschild, Irina Sokolova and Emmanuel Starcky, Rembrandt et son école: Collections du musée de l’Ermitage de Saint‑Pétersbourg (Dijon: Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon, 2003), cat. 47, p. 191, for the etching see Hollstein, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 15. Like Woman in a Window with a Pear, all three were incised for transfer to the etching ground. The technique of the Harvard drawing—executed primarily in gray wash, blackened on the verso, and incised for transfer to the etching ground—closely resembles that of the model for the small plate Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret, which also dates from the early 1650s; Hollstein, vol. 3, no. 10, p. 24, and Van Sloten, cat. 18, p. 36. Bust of a Bearded Old Man in a Velvet Beret and Woman in a Window with a Pear both belonged during the nineteenth century to the Earls of Warwick and were sold in 1936 by the Seventh Earl as a single lot in one frame (see note 1) and were still together until 1948 in the Leroy M. Backus collection (see Provenance). Bol’s authorship of the Harvard drawing was questioned in the 1950s and 1960s by some scholars (comments in file by Kurt Bauch, Horst Gerson, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann), but was accepted by Van Regteren Altena (1968; comment recorded in file) and has since been regarded as the autograph study for the print by Sumowski; Clifford S. Ackley in Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts; Saint Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum, 1980); Ingrid Oud, “De tekening van Ferdinand Bol: De relatie tussen de stijl en de functie van de tekeningen,” Kunstlicht, vol. 13, no. 1 (13 Jan. 1992): 3–10; Van Sloten; and Catherine Tran in Sokolova et al.

5 Ackley, p. 206.

6 See, for example, Nicolaes Maes, Thoughtful Woman at a Window, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Sumowski, vol. 3, cat. 1330); Jan Victors, Young Woman at a Window, 1640, Musée du Louvre, Paris (idem, vol. 4, cat. 1785); and Bol, Woman at a Window, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (idem, vol. 1, cat. 122). Bol’s Hermitage painting of the late 1640s shows a woman at a window with a stone frame in a historicized costume with a necklace and pendant above her conspicuous décolletage.

7 Ferdinand Bol, The Toper (Fig. 2), oil on canvas; 89.2 × 82.3 cm. Wallace Collection, London, P74. Albert Blankert, Ferdinand Bol (1616–1680): Rembrandt’s Pupil (Doornspijk, Netherlands, 1982), Vol. 2 in Aetas aurea series, cat. 96, p. 130; Sumowski, vol. 1, cat. 126, p. 303; John Ingamells, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures IV: Dutch and Flemish (London, 1992), cat. P74, p. 36.

8 Blankert, cat. 96, p. 130; Sumowski, vol. 1, cat. 126, p. 303; Ingamells, cat. P74, p. 36.

9 The Toper has been vaguely interpreted by Blankert and Ingamells as a tronie —a head and costume study of a distinctive character type—and by Sumowski as an undefined “allegory” (see note 8 for both). On the term tronie, see Marieke de Winkel, Fashion and Fancy: Dress and Meaning in Rembrandt’s Paintings (Amsterdam, 2006), p. 137. Neither reading of the image is satisfactory in light of the multiple meanings assigned to single figures of drinkers in Dutch art of the period. See Ger Luijten in Eddy de Jongh and Ger Luijten, Mirror of Everyday Life: Genre Prints in the Netherlands 1550–1700, (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1997), cat. 53, pp. 264–67.

10 See Alison McNeil Kettering, Catalogus van de Nederlandse tekeningen in het Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam / Catalogue of the Dutch and Flemish Drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Vol 5, Drawings from the Ter Borch Studio Estate (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1988), part 2, p. 450, on moralizing verses about female virtue by Jacob Cats, Jan Harmensz. Krul, and Gesina Ter Borch that make use of the pear metaphor.

11 “De peere die men plukt, en van de tacken snijt, / Is beter als de peer, die van de steele glijt. / Een Jufvrouw, al te haest genegen tot het minnen / Was noyt soo aengenaem aen kloeke Minnaers sinnen.” Jan Harmensz. Krul, Minne-spiegel ter deughden, Amsterdam, 1639, p. 68. A variant holds that a man in search of a wife should refuse the offer of a pear that has been picked by someone else, but desire the fruit that hangs high in the tree and can be plucked by him alone after he has climbed to it. See Kettering, part 2, p. 450.

Figures
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
1956
Object Number
1956.228
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Burton B. Fredericksen and Richard Joseph Kubiak, Etchings of Rembrandt and his Followers: A Selection from the Robert Engel Family Collection, exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu CA, 1977), under cat. no. 69, p. 44

Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, ed. Walter Strauss, Abaris Books (New York, NY, 1979), vol. 1, cat. no. 105, p. 234, and under cat. no. 106, p. 236, under cat. no. 108, p. 240, under cat. no. 142x, p. 208, under cat. no. 149x, p. 322, and under cat. no. 150x, p. 324

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, checklist (unpublished, 1980), no. 38

Clifford S. Ackley, Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, 1981), under cat. no. 139, p. 206

B.P.J. Broos, "Boekbespreking: Werner Sumowski, 'Drawings of the Rembrandt School, 1'", Oud Holland (1984), vol. 98, no. 3, pp. 162-86, p. 181

Ingrid Oud, "De tekening van Ferdinand Bol. De relatie tussen de stijl en de functie van de tekeningen.", Kunstlicht (Amsterdam, 13 January 1992), vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 3-10, pp. 3, 5, and 9, repr. p. 4, fig. 1

Leonore van Sloten, Ferdinand Bol: etsen in eigen huis, exh. cat., Museum van Loon (Amsterdam, 2000), p. 42, repr., fig. 24b

Irina Sokolova and Emmanuel Starcky, Rembrandt et son école: Collections du musée de l'Ermitage de Saint-Pétersbourg, exh. cat., Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, 2003), under cat. no. 61, p. 205

Ivan Gaskell, Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2006), checklist

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 22; cat. no. 9, pp. 52-54, repr. p. 53; watermark p. 374

Exhibition History

Unidentified Exhibition, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1941, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 11/30/1941

The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/21/1980 - 01/04/1981

Rembrandt and His School: Drawings from the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Rotterdam, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/1989 - 01/28/1990

Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 09/09/2006 - 12/10/2006

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu