REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn
Following his apprenticeship with Jacob van Swanenburgh (1571-1638) after 1620, he spent six-months training under Pieter Lastman (1583-1633) in Amsterdam. It was through Lastman that Rembrandt, who had never been to Italy himself, became acquainted with the works of Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) and Caravaggio (1573-1610). In 1624/25, he settled in Leiden as an independent master. In the ensuing years, he worked in close association with Jan Lievens (1607-1674). The first of his many pupils were Gerard Dou (1613-1675) and Isaac de Jouderville (1613-1645/48), whom he taught between 1628 and 1631. The statesman and art connoisseur Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), whom Rembrandt met in the late 20s, secured a number of commissions for him from the court. From 1631/32 onwards, Rembrandt was active in Amsterdam. His oeuvre, which was devoted to a wide range of subjects, is distinct from the works of his contemporaries both in its inventiveness and in the "rowe manier" of his technique.
Old Woman Praying
This likeness of an old woman wearing a red headscarf and wrapped in a fur cape is of special importance in Rembrandt's oeuvre. As the support the young master chose copper, which he used very rarely. The other two paintings on copper, one in the National Museum of Stockholm, NM 5324, and one at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Inv. no. 598, also date from 1629/30 and were executed in Leiden. Gold leaf was used as the ground to heighten the luminous effect. This small painting is an excellent example of Rembrandt's special sense of material, which found expression in his constant experimentation with pigments. Several glazes, occasionally heightened with white, make the wrinkled, thin-skinned hands of the old woman appear almost like glass and translucent. The wrinkled face with the almost toothless mouth, on the other hand, seems as if it were moulded from paint, as does the surface of the scarf of madder lake which is heightened with white for additional sheen. The texture of the fur was achieved by scraping through the wet paint with the butt end of the brush. The likeness is presumed to be that of Rembrandt's mother Cornelia Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbroek. In the Leiden period, he used her too as a model for several paintings, as he did other family members. The likeness, since1762 also known as "Rembrandt's Mother Praying", is not so much a portrait of the person depicted as the personification of the virtue of piety represented by a woman who has turned away from this world and is deep in prayer.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 24