“Woman with a Child Frightened by a Dog.” Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris
The Rembrandt exhibition at the Louvre closes on July 18, but thankfully Paris will not be Rembrandt-free, since a lovely new show of drawings by the master and some of his contemporaries, “Rembrandt and His Circle: Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection,” has just opened at the Institut Néerlandais.
While definitive attribution of Rembrandt’s drawings is difficult, since most are not signed, experts now consider that around 70 drawings are by his hand. That makes the 20 on show at the Paris’s Dutch Cultural Institute quite a score. They are accompanied by works by his students and peers, as well as a small group of works by Jan Lievens for good measure. The final room shows works whose attributions have been changed based on the recent research of Peter Schatborn, a renowned expert on 17th-century drawings, who is the former head of the print room at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and author of the catalogue raisonné of the Frits Lugt Collection.
I had the good fortune to meet Schatborn at the opening. “I have been working on Rembrandt for 40 years,” he said, “and I still get excited about him.” Listening to him talk about various drawings was revelatory. He noted how Rembrandt, who liked to capture “moments of transition” during an event, could suggest something with the slightest marks on paper. In “The Healing of the Mother-in-Law of Saint Peter,” for example, the artist shows the
The Healing of the Mother-in-Law of Saint Peter. Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris. Photo © Ricky Lopez Bruni
standing Christ pulling the woman up to her feet. Schatborn pointed to the faint lines placed just so under her bottom to indicate that her body has just left the ground.
Looking at the touching “Return of Tobias,” in which two men embrace, Schatborn marveled at how Rembrandt was able to convey the emotion of the moment even though the face of neither man is shown in the drawing.
In one of my favorites, “Woman with a Child Frightened by a Dog” (pictured at the top of the page), the artist conveys many emotions in one tiny drawing: the fear of the toddler pulling back into its mother’s skirts, the amusement of the mother as she bends around the child to see its face and reassure it, and the haplessness of the dog, whose tail is visibly wagging, and who “is just being a dog,” as Schatborn put it.
Another one of my favorites is “Woman Leaning on a Window Sill,” in which the woman’s face and body are plunged into darkness, while the
“Woman Leaning on a Window Sill.” Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris
hand holding her head is lit by the light from the window. The window and the woman’s skirt are just suggested with a few quick lines, while a deep shadow behind her deepens the feeling of gloom.
While most visitors will want to concentrate on the drawings by Rembrandt himself, there are also many delights to be found among the works of the other artists on show – Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, for example, shows that he, too, was capable of capturing the essence of dogginess in his “Studies of a Dog Lying Down.” Other artists represented include Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol, Nicolaes Maes and Lambert Doomer. Reading the interesting and informative label texts, in French and English, helps you understand characteristics of Rembrandt’s works by explaining how other artists who were influenced by him deviated from the master’s example.
A version of this exhibition was shown earlier this year at the Frick Collection in New York, where its visitors included Woody Allen, Mick Jagger and Yoko Ono. Don’t expect to see celebrities in Paris, however, just Parisians quietly studying the drawings, which are very rarely exhibited because of their fragility.
For this exhibition, each drawing was reframed in recently restored 17th-century frames from the Fondation Custodia, a change from the standardized formats usually used to show these works. The foundation, which manages the Frits Lugt Collection, is a partner of the Institut Néerlandais, one of Paris’s most active foreign cultural centers, which holds not only serious art exhibitions but also concerts, conferences, workshops, film screenings and language courses. Lugt (1884-1970) was one of the institute’s founders, along with the Dutch government, in 1956.
Highlights of upcoming events at the institute: Peter Schatborn will speak on Tuesday, September 13 at 7pm. A guided tour of the Fondation Custodia, housed in the 18th-century Hôtel Turgot, will be conducted on September 17 at 3pm (admission: €4). A lunch concert of music from the Dutch Golden Age will be held on September 22 (concert: €5; lunch: €8). Reservation required for all three: e-mail or 01 53 59 12 40.
Institut Néerlandais: 121, rue de Lille, 75007 Paris. Métro: Through October 2. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 1pm-7pm. Closed Monday. Admission: €6. www.institutneerlandais.com
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