Choose a background colour

Samuel van Hoogstrat­en, Dutch, 1627-1678

Study of a Male Nude Holding a Staff, c. 1646 

Rem­brandt’s teach­ing meth­ods includ­ed draw­ing from live mod­els, often male pupils and assis­tants work­ing in the artist’s large stu­dio. One of his most tal­ent­ed stu­dents, Samuel van Hoogstrat­en, used sat­u­rat­ed wash­es of vary­ing tones to set this fig­ure in space and applied hatch­ing and white high­lights to cre­ate form and dimen­sion. The wood­en beams and gabled win­dow sug­gest it was made in Rem­brandt’s attic, an area par­ti­tioned for stu­dent use. 

Writ­ing in his trea­tise on art pub­lished some thir­ty-five years later, Van Hoogstrat­en wished he had focused more on grace­ful move­ments in his early fig­ure stud­ies. The pose shown here, although per­haps con­sid­ered ungrace­ful” to the artist, con­tin­ues to be uti­lized in draw­ing instruc­tion today.

Samuel van Hoogstrat­en was one of Rem­brandt’s most tal­ent­ed pupils, but is best known today for his his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant trea­tise, the Intro­duc­tion to the Acad­e­my of Paint­ing, or the Vis­i­ble World (Inley­d­ing tot de hooge schoole der schilderkon­st, anders de zicht­baere werelt), pub­lished in 1678.1

It is through Van Hoogstraten’s book that we learn, or can infer, much about Rem­brandt’s own teach­ing meth­ods and gen­er­al artis­tic prac­tices.2

This includ­ed draw­ing from live nude mod­els. An under­stand­ing of the pro­por­tions, forms, and move­ments of the human body was a cen­tral sub­ject in Van Hoogstraten’s book.

Draw­ing from male nude mod­els was cer­tain­ly more com­mon than draw­ing from female ones, though the lat­ter has right­ly received a greater share of schol­ar­ly atten­tion due to the inno­v­a­tive and some­times fraught nature of the prac­tice.3

Unlike the female pros­ti­tutes often hired to dis­robe as mod­els, mem­bers of a larg­er stu­dio (such as Rem­brandt’s) could freely enlist their male stu­dio assis­tants and fel­low pupils to strip down to their loin­cloths. Most draw­ing acad­e­mies” in Ams­ter­dam fol­lowed the Ital­ian model of using black and white chalk on pre­pared paper.4

Rem­brandt and his fol­low­ers, by con­trast, pre­ferred to use pen and ink with wash, as here, some­times fin­ished with a great range of tone.5 The rel­a­tive­ly worked-up back­ground empha­siz­ing a stu­dio set­ting is also com­mon­ly found in his and his stu­dents’ works, as opposed to depict­ing a fig­ure set in empty space. 

Arnold Houbrak­en (1660 – 1719) tells us that Rem­brandt rent­ed a ware­house space on the Bloem­gracht for draw­ing after live mod­els.6

We gain a glimpse into one of Rem­brandt’s group ses­sions through the for­tu­nate sur­vival of three dif­fer­ent draw­ings, all in the style of Rem­brandt’s work­shop (though not by the mas­ter him­self), show­ing the same model in the same pose from three dif­fer­ent angles, along with Rem­brandt’s own etch­ing from the same ses­sion.7

Van Hoogstrat­en is thought to have made one of those three draw­ings while seat­ed to Rem­brandt’s right Fig. 22.1.8

Samuel van Hoogstraten, Standing Male Nude, Head Facing Left
Fig. 22.1

Samuel van Hoogstrat­en, Stand­ing Male Nude, Head Fac­ing Left, c. 1646. Pen in brown ink and brown wash with high­lights in white, 247 × 154 mm. Paris, Musée du Lou­vre, inv. no. rf 4713.

Rem­brandt made two close­ly relat­ed etch­ings in 1646, which has given rise to the premise that these three draw­ings were made in the same year, and, by exten­sion, that his known stu­dents from that time, such as Van Hoogstrat­en and Carel Fab­ri­tius (1622 – 1654), were like­ly par­tic­i­pants.9

Some ses­sions were held as groups, but oth­ers, like the present sheet, prob­a­bly reflect an indi­vid­ual prac­tice that also took place under Rem­brandt’s roof; quite lit­er­al­ly, in this case, as one sees by the archi­tec­ture. This is in keep­ing with a 1658 doc­u­ment that con­firms Rem­brandt had par­ti­tioned spaces in his attic for his stu­dents.10

Given the diag­o­nal beams and gabled win­dow shown here, it seems like­ly that this is one of those spaces in Rem­brandt’s own home, the present-day Rem­brandt House Muse­um. A draw­ing attrib­uted to Bar­ent Fab­ri­tius (1624 – 1673) in Dres­den reveals a sim­i­lar space Fig. 22.2.11

Barent Fabritius, Standing Male Nude, Leaning against Beam
Fig. 22.2

Bar­ent Fab­ri­tius, Stand­ing Male Nude, Lean­ing against Beam, c. 1646. Pen in brown ink and brown wash, 204 × 158 mm. Dres­den, Kupfer­stich-Kabi­nett, inv. no. c 1363.

The attri­bu­tion of the present draw­ing to Van Hoogstrat­en is by no means entire­ly straight­for­ward. Orig­i­nal­ly it was regard­ed as a work by Rem­brandt him­self in the 1906 cat­a­logue of his draw­ings by Cor­nelis Hof­st­ede de Groot, who may have once owned the sheet.12

Its present attri­bu­tion was first pub­lished by Wern­er Sumows­ki in his cor­pus of Van Hoogstraten’s draw­ings (cred­it­ing Kurt Bauch for com­mu­ni­cat­ing the sug­ges­tion oral­ly).13

Sumows­ki gath­ered a num­ber of other nude fig­ure stud­ies under Van Hoogstraten’s name, but it nev­er­the­less remains dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile all of them defin­i­tive­ly with the rest of his drawn oeu­vre, and some­times even with each other.14

This is an under­stand­able prob­lem given the acad­e­my-like nature of this type of draw­ing, often left unsigned. This work con­tains par­tic­u­lar­ly strong pas­sages of pen hatch­ing to define the limbs and torso, as one encoun­ters to some degree in other nude stud­ies attrib­uted to Van Hoogstrat­en. He also seems to have been in the habit of lend­ing greater atten­tion to the loin­cloths, fill­ing out their forms more care­ful­ly than his peers. While the attri­bu­tion of this and other nude stud­ies to Van Hoogstrat­en must remain to some degree pro­vi­sion­al, his author­ship is the most plau­si­ble. For instance, anoth­er draw­ing attrib­uted to Van Hoogstrat­en for­mer­ly in the Koenigs col­lec­tion relates in style, exe­cu­tion, and the use of a sat­u­rat­ed wash back­ground to set the fig­ure in space Fig. 22.3.15

Samuel van Hoogstraten, Standing Male Nude, Hands Behind Back
Fig. 22.3

Samuel van Hoogstrat­en, Stand­ing Male Nude, Hands Behind Back. Pen in brown ink and brown wash with high­lights in white, 296 × 169 mm. For­mer­ly Haar­lem, Col­lec­tion of F. Koenigs.

Van Hoogstrat­en tells us him­self in The Vis­i­ble World that he saved his fig­ure stud­ies from these years, but wished that the poses had been more con­cerned with the grace­ful move­ments of the body: I pity myself when I look at my old acad­e­my draw­ings and see that we were so sparse­ly edu­cat­ed in this in our youth, as it is no more work to imi­tate a grace­ful pos­ture than an unpleas­ant and dis­gust­ing one.” 16

It is iron­ic that the pose adopt­ed here, with the fig­ure mere­ly stand­ing and hold­ing the staff to help main­tain his raised arm, may have seemed ungrace­ful” or old-fash­ioned to Van Hoogstrat­en later in life. Such a pose remains con­ven­tion­al in a tra­di­tion of instruc­tion that con­tin­ues unabat­ed to the present.

If Rem­brandt’s stu­dents were using each other as mod­els, it is tempt­ing to ven­ture an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the young man vol­un­teer­ing his ser­vices here. Although the like­ness in the draw­ing is only loose­ly given, it bears a cer­tain resem­blance to Bar­ent Fab­ri­tius Fig. 22.4

Barent Fabritius, Self-Portrait as a Shepherd
Fig. 22.4

Bar­ent Fab­ri­tius, Self-Por­trait as a Shep­herd, c. 1654 – 56. Oil on can­vas, 79.5 × 65 cm. Vien­na, Akademie der bilden­den Kün­ste Wien, inv. no. gg-639.

Given the Rem­brandtesque style of many of his paint­ings, it has often been assumed that Bar­ent joined his older broth­er Carel in train­ing in Rembrandt’s ate­lier in the 1640s, though unfor­tu­nate­ly there is no firm evi­dence of his tute­lage there.17

End Notes

  1. For an intro­duc­tion to and trans­la­tion of Van Hoogstraten’s Vis­i­ble World, see Brusati & Jacobs 2021.

  2. See Van de Weter­ing 2016 for a study of the links between Van Hoogstraten’s trea­tise and Rembrandt’s prac­tices as we under­stand them.

  3. For the prac­tice of draw­ing from live nude mod­els in Rembrandt’s work­shop, see Ams­ter­dam 2016; and H. Bev­ers in Los Ange­les 2009 – 10, 13 – 19. For Rembrandt’s male nudes specif­i­cal­ly, see Ket­ter­ing 2011; and D. de Witt in Ams­ter­dam 2016, 117 – 23. The chief study of Rembrandt’s female nudes is Slui­jter 2006.

  4. For an overview of the dif­fer­ent draw­ing acad­e­mies in Ams­ter­dam, see J. Noor­man in Ams­ter­dam 2016, 11 – 43.

  5. Ket­ter­ing 2011, 253.

  6. Houbrak­en 1718 – 21, vol. 1, 256; and Ford 2007, 59.

  7. See H. Bev­ers in Los Ange­les 2009 – 10, 12 – 17.

  8. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 5, no. 1253; and Paris 1988 – 89, no. 109.

  9. New Holl­stein (Rem­brandt), nos. 232, 234. See De Witt in Ams­ter­dam 2016, 117 – 23. For the attri­bu­tion of one of the draw­ings to Carel Fab­ri­tius, see Schat­born 2006, 136 – 37.

  10. Strauss & Van der Meulen 1979, no. 1658/3. The doc­u­ment relates to the sale of Rembrandt’s house, and men­tions var­i­ous cubi­cles [afschut­sels] that had been set up in the attic for his students.”

  11. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 4, no. 857; and Ams­ter­dam 2016, 120 – 21 (fig. 86).

  12. Hof­st­ede de Groot 1906, 86, no. 356.

  13. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 5, no. 1250a

  14. See Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 5, nos. 1250 – 58. For some rea­son­able con­cerns about the attri­bu­tions of cer­tain nude stud­ies to Van Hoogstrat­en, see Giltaij 1988, no. 86; and Roy­al­ton-Kisch 2010, nos. 7 – 8.

  15. Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 5, no. 1254. See also Elen 1989, 238 – 39, no. 486; and Moscow 1995 – 96, 110, 286, no. 299.

  16. Van Hoogstrat­en 1678, 294; trans­la­tion from Brusati & Jacobs 2021, 322. See also Bev­ers in Los Ange­les 2009 – 10, 19; and Emmens 1979, 220.

  17. See the entry for Bar­ent Fab­ri­tius by I. Haber­land in Turn­er 1996.