Old Woman Cutting Her Nails

Style of Rembrandt (Dutch, second or third quarter 17th century)
ca. 1655–60
Oil on canvas
49 5/8 x 40 1/8 in. (126.1 x 101.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
Not on view
Once well known as a Rembrandt, this large canvas has also been attributed to the master's pupil, Nicolaes Maes (1643–1693), and to Abraham van Dijck (ca. 1635?–1680?). The two artists were closely associated in Dordrecht, the southern Dutch city from which several Rembrandt followers came. Whatever its authorship, the painting must date from about 1655–60. The sewing materials and the act of clipping nails probably suggest domestic virtues of a kind often associated with widowhood. The monumental treatment is unexpected and surely inspired by Rembrandt.
Inscription: Inscribed (lower left): Rembrandt / 1648
Ingham Foster, London (by 1764); Serge Bibikoff, St. Petersburg; Nikolaj Mossoloff, Moscow (by 1875–at least 1886); Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1894–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 67; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, Paris and New York, 1907; sold for $148,535 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1907–d. 1913)
Amsterdam. Stedelijk Museum. "Rembrandt Schilderijen," September 8–October 31, 1898, no. 101.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Rembrandt," January 21–?, 1942, no catalogue.

Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse University. "Spanish Art: Fifteenth Century to Modern," November 10–December 1, 1952, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 36.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.


John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 7, London, 1836, p. 75, no. 180, as engraved in mezzotint by J. G. Haid, under the title "Rembrandt's Mother".

C. Vosmaer. Rembrandt, sa vie et ses ouevres. 2nd ed. The Hague, 1877, p. 544, dates it between 1645 and 1650; as in the Massaloff [Mossoloff] collection, Moscow, and as etched by the owner's son in 1875.

Alfred von Wurzbach. Rembrandt-galerie. Stuttgart, 1886, text vol., p. 89, no. 425.

Émile Michel. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. English ed. New York, 1894, vol. 2, pp. 130–32 n. 1, ill., as recently purchased by Kann in Russia; dates it 1658 and gives provenance information.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. De Rembrandt Tentoonstelling te Amsterdam. Amsterdam, [1898], unpaginated, no. 32 [text section] and no. 101, pl. 32.

Malcolm Bell. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899, pp. 82, 158, as "undoubtedly a model".

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. III, pl. 4.

Gustav Glück. "Die Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris." Die Graphischen Künste 23 (1900), p. 90.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. VI, ill. p. III (gallery photograph).

M. G. Z[immermann]. "Die Galerie Rudolf Kann zu Paris." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 12, no. 6 (1901), p. 141, ill.

Wilhelm [von] Bode with the assistance of C. Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. Vol. 6, Paris, 1901, pp. 27–28, 186, no. 477, pl. 477.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1904, p. 262, ill. p. 210.

Carl Neumann. Rembrandt. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1905, vol. 2, p. 403.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906, pp. 416, 426, 432, ill. p. 320.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. Die Handzeichnungen Rembrandts. Haarlem, 1906, p. 375.

Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, p. 68, no. 67, ill. opp. p. 68.

Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), pp. 194–95.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 563, ill. p. 444.

William Bode. "More Spurious Pictures Abroad Than in America." New York Times (December 31, 1911), ill. p. SM4 (detail).

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 3–5, no. 1, pl. 1.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "The Rembrandts of the Altman Collection: I." Art in America 2 (August 1914), p. 351.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 6, London, 1916, pp. 180–81, no. 308.

John Kruse. Die Zeichnungen Rembrandts und seiner Schule im National-Museum zu Stockholm. The Hague, 1920, p. 48, under no. IV, I, fig. 56, publishes a related drawing (now attributed to the school of Rembrandt).

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt wiedergefundene Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 127.

Paul Markthaler in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme and Fred C. Willis. Vol. 15, Leipzig, 1922, p. 481, lists it among plates engraved after Rembrandt by Johann Gottfried Haid for John and Josiah Boydell about 1763–67.

François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), p. 306.

John C. van Dyke. Rembrandt and His School. New York, 1923, p. 132, pl. XXVIII, attributes it to Maes.

D. S. Meldrum. Rembrandt's Paintings. London, 1923, p. 201, pl. CCCLXXXIII.

Alan Burroughs. "Rembrandts in the Metropolitan Museum." The Arts 4 (November 1923), p. 270, defends the attribution to Rembrandt.

William Howe Downes. "The Great Rembrandt Question." American Magazine of Art 14 (December 1923), p. 665, ill. p. 662.

H. A. Hammond Smith. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. December 2, 1923, states the he is "satisfied that the signature is old and a part of the picture".

John C. van Dyke. "Who Painted this Old Woman?" New York Times Magazine (December 16, 1923), pp. 3, 15, ill.

Carl Neumann. Rembrandt. 4th ed. Munich, 1924, vol. 2, pp. 511–12, 589, pl. 149.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Rembrandt's Old Woman Cutting Her Nails." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (January 1924), pp. 16–17, defends the attribution to Rembrandt.

Werner Weisbach. Rembrandt. Berlin, 1926, p. 552, fig. 184.

Max Eisler. Der alte Rembrandt. Vienna, 1927, p. 57, pl. 21.

"Current Art Notes." Connoisseur 84 (November 1929), p. 329, ill. p. 305.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, no. 139, pl. 139, calls the drawing in Stockholm a study for this picture.

Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 337, pl. 180 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 321, pl. 180].

W[ilhelm]. Martin. De Hollandsche Schilderkunst in de zeventiende Eeuw. Vol. 2, Rembrandt en zijn Tijd. Amsterdam, 1936, p. 86, fig. 46, accepts the attribution to Rembrandt.

Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 199, ill.

William M. Ivins Jr. "The Art of Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37 (January 1942), p. 3.

Introduction by William M. Ivins Jr. The Unseen Rembrandt. New York, 1942, pls. 11–12 (overall and detail).

Julius S. Held. "Rembrandt: The Self-Education of an Artist." Art News 40 (February 1–14, 1942), pp. 13–14, ill. (detail).

Margaret Breuning. "Metropolitan Re-Installs Its Treasures in Attractive Settings." Art Digest 18 (June 1, 1944), p. 6.

Guy Pène du Bois. "Art and the Decline of the Bourgeoisie." Magazine of Art 37 (October 1944), p. 220, ill. p. 219.

Josephine L. Allen. "The Museum's Rembrandts." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (November 1945), p. 74.

Jakob Rosenberg. Rembrandt. Cambridge, Mass., 1948, vol. 1, pp. 148, 196–97; vol. 2, pl. 261.

James Henry Duveen. The Rise of the House of Duveen. New York, 1957, p. 233.

Frederic Taubes. "Your Paint." American Artist 22 (December 1958), p. 60, ill. (detail).

Otto Benesch. "Über den Werdgang einer Komposition Rembrandts." Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts no. 22 (1963), p. 83.

Jakob Rosenberg. Rembrandt: Life & Work. rev. ed. London, 1964, pp. 245, 314–16, 364 n. 8b, fig. 261, notes that the attribution to Rembrandt is "not fully convincing".

Hermann Kühn. "Untersuchungen zu den Malgründen Rembrandts." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 2 (1965), p. 203.

Nathan Knobler. The Visual Dialogue. New York, [1967], p. 102, figs. 80, 81 (overall and detail) [2nd ed., 1971, pp. 93–94, figs. 96, 97 (overall and detail)].

"Museums: When Dutchmen Disagree." Time (April 12, 1968), p. 75, ill.

John McPhee. A Roomful of Hovings. New York, 1968, p. 58.

Paolo Lecaldano in L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, ill. p. 131, includes it among works of doubtful attribution.

Benjamin A. Rifkin. "Rembrandt and His Circle, Part I." Art News 68 (May 1969), p. 27, mentions it in a discussion of works he ascribes to the "Adriaen Master".

J. Richard Judson in Rembrandt After Three Hundred Years. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. [Chicago], 1969, p. 46, under no. 27, notes the inconclusive attribution, and relates it to the "Apostle Thomas (?)" in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel.

Benjamin A. Rifkin. "Rembrandt and His Circle, Part 3." Art News 68 (November 1969), p. 90.

Benjamin A. Rifkin. "In Search of the Real Rembrandt." Tribune (December 14, 1969), p. 4? [also published on same date in Washington Post and World Book?], says it is not by Maes, but is related in style to his work.

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 172 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

Francis Haskell. "The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 263, fig. 10 (Altman gallery installation).

Carter B. Horsley. "Who Really Painted It? The Met's Downgrading of 300 Works of Art." Art News 72 (March 1973), pp. 47–48, notes its attribution to a pupil of Rembrandt.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 4, Ch. Paudiss–Anonyme. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], pp. 2362, 2365, 2879, no. 1595, ill. p. 2377 (color), attributes it to Van der Pluym.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 5, Nachträge Ortsregister. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 3367.

Henry Adams. "If not Rembrandt, then His Cousin?" Art Bulletin 66 (September 1984), pp. 436–38, fig. 17.

Paul Jeromack. "Être Rembrandt ou ne plus l'être." Connaissance des Arts no. 441 (November 1988), p. 106, ill. (color), as considered to be an eighteenth or nineteenth-century copy.

J[osua]. Bruyn. "Review of Sumowski 1983–94 [vol. 3]." Oud Holland 102, no. 4 (1988), p. 331, fig. 6.

Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, pp. 48, 58 n. 156, fig. 37 (Altman gallery installation).

Bernhard Schnackenburg in Rembrandt: The Master & His Workshop. Ed. Sally Salvesen. Exh. cat., Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Vol. 1, "Paintings."New Haven, 1991, p. 371, under no. 77, figs. 77b, 77c (overall and detail), calls it the "achievement of a gifted but still unpractised beginner".

William W. Robinson. Letter to Walter Liedtke. November 6, 1991, rejects an attribution of the Kassel picture to Maes and states that the MMA painting is "even further from Maes".

Walter Liedtke. "Some Paintings not by Rembrandt in the Metropolitan Museum." Rembrandt and His Pupils. Ed. Görel Cavalli-Björkman. Stockholm, 1993, pp. 131–34, 140 n. 42, p. 141 n. 45, fig. 8.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 31, 114, 124–28, 151, no. 36, ill. (color), as by a follower of Rembrandt, possibly Abraham van Dijck; tentatively dates it about 1660.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. Washington, 1995, p. 329, fig. 2, as attributed to Van der Pluym.

Hubert von Sonnenburg. Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, "Paintings: Problems and Issues."New York, 1995, pp. 5, 122–25, no. 36, ill. p. 123 (color) and figs. 157, 159 (color details), as by a follower of Rembrandt, possibly Nicolaes Maes; tentatively dates it about 1660.

J[osua]. Bruyn. "Werner Sumowski, 'Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler' IV en V." Oud Holland 109, no. 1/2 (1995), p. 101, 110 n. 4.

León Krempel. Studien zu den datierten Gemälden des Nicolaes Maes (1634–1693). Petersberg, Germany, 2000, pp. 34, 366, no. F4, fig. 428, as attributed to Abraham van Dijck.

Thomas Ketelsen in Rembrandt, oder nicht? Exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle. Vol. 2, "Die Gemälde."Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2000, p. 66, under no. 13.

Catherine B. Scallen. Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship. Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 141, 208, 352 n. 36, p. 363 nn. 97, 99, fig. 32.

John Loughman. "Abraham van Dijck (1635?–1680) a Dordrecht Painter in the Shadow of Rembrandt." In His Milieu: Essays on Netherlandish Art in Memory of John Michael Montias. Ed. A[my]. Golahny et al. Amsterdam, 2006, pp. 265, 275 n. 3.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 31–33, 35, figs. 31 (Altman gallery photograph), 34 (color) .

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 708, 739–48, 752 n. 14, no. 169, colorpl. 169, fig. 212, states that "the most plausible attribution is to . . . Abraham van Dijck, who about 1655–60 painted a number of pictures of solitary women in domestic settings".

George S. Keyes in Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 73–74, 84 n. 41.

Engraved in mezzotint by J. G. Haid in 1764.

Etched by N. Mossoloff in 1875.