A girl with a broom by Rembrandt van Ryn, Dutch school, 1606-1669, canvas, height 42 1/4 in., width 36 in. Signed and dated 1651.
Andrew Mellon Collection
A soft shaft of light picks out a young girl pausing in her daily household and lost in thought. She leans gently on a fence and holds her well-used broom.
What could be more mundane or more trivial? And yet it is just such a simple scene that Rembrandt has infused with great depth of feeling.
This child may be seen in other of Rembrandt's paintings of the early 1650's. She may have helped Hendrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt's faithful companion for about eighteen years with the chores and she was probably very grateful for the chance to rest and daydream as she poses for the master.
Rembrandt often persuaded members of his household and friends to model for him, especially during the latter part of his life when outside commissions were scarce and financial difficulties serious.
Yet there's more than just a recognizable kitchen girl here. Mysteriously Rembrandt weave into the child's face a depth of meaning and of understanding that would seem far beyond her years.
A girl with a broom was painted when Rembrandt was about 45. It was during this mature phase of his life that he painted some of his most profound and intriguing portraits.