CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

New Life. Rembrandt and Children

Presentation: 14 May - 6 October 2024

The drawing of a sleeping baby by Rembrandt had been in private collections for over 200 years but has now been donated to the nation and allocated to the British Museum through the Arts Council’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

This adds to the Museum’s extensive collection of over 1,000 prints and 72 drawings by Rembrandt (1606–1669) and more than 300 drawings by his pupils. The collection was largely assembled in the eighteenth century, and this is the first Rembrandt drawing to enter the British Museum collection in over 35 years.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), A Baby in a Cradle, ca. 1645
British Museum, London

The drawing, which dates to about 1645, is displayed alongside drawings of children in Dutch and Flemish art, to showcase the practice of drawing from life and depicting domestic subjects. Rembrandt’s studies from life of children are among his most tender and endearing drawings and the display features six drawings of children from different periods of his career – and his ability to capture movement with only a few well-placed lines remained consistent throughout his practice.

Children appear in many guises in Dutch and Flemish art: studies for formal portraits, with examples by Anthony van Dyck, tender domestic scenes, best represented by Rembrandt and his pupils, and in playful depictions of daily life, such as Adriaen van Ostade’s interiors populated by children, who play, sleep, cry and perform domestic duties. In this context, the drawings of children by Rembrandt and his circle appear seemingly timeless – observed from life, not embellished or idealised, they connect with us, almost 400 years later.