Exhibitions/ Art Object

Christ with a Staff

Follower of Rembrandt (Dutch, third quarter 17th century)
Oil on canvas
37 1/2 x 32 1/2 in. (95.3 x 82.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
Not on view
This impressive picture was clearly inspired by Rembrandt's style of the 1660s and was conceivably painted in his workshop. The broad, uniform application of paint and rather decorative use of strokes and scratches imitate some of Rembrandt's surface effects but fail to achieve his sense of volume, various textures, and atmosphere. A few scholars have suggested the manner of execution is similar to that of Arent de Gelder (1645–1727), Rembrandt's last important pupil.
In recent years not only the authorship but the subject of this canvas has been disputed. Most scholars now reject an attribution to Rembrandt, whose responsibility for the painting was first doubted in Ainsworth et al. 1982. The picture has usually gone by the title Christ with a Pilgrim's Staff since it was catalogued by Bode (1901), who, however, suggested that the figure more closely resembled Saint James the Minor (or Less), one of the twelve apostles. The work was probably painted by a close follower of Rembrandt (perhaps working for him on a series of pictures), and its subject is probably Christ.

The painting has considerable quality and is painted in a manner reminiscent of Rembrandt's about 1660. The execution of the figure, however, with the possible exception of the face, is for the most part superficial rather than brilliantly observed, with failures of form uncharacteristic of Rembrandt even when working quickly on a large scale. It is possible that Rembrandt might have improved upon an assistant's efforts in the face, and conceivable that a few highlights and shadows in the drapery were added by the master, though this is speculation. The hypothesis of collaboration is especially plausible in the case of a commission for a series of sizable pictures.

Bode's assertion that the picture's subject might be Saint James the Minor was occasionally echoed but not explained until Tümpel (1986) suggested that the "crutch" on which the figure rests his hands is a reference to the fuller's club with which James was beaten to death. A book, a club or tall staff, and a face quite unlike Christ's are commonly found in sixteenth-century images of James, but in this work a book is absent, the staff is inconspicuous, and the figure here is consistent with the late Rembrandt's usual type of Christ.

Pilgrims' staffs are usually longer than the one depicted here, and why Christ should be depicted as a pilgrim is far from obvious. Perhaps it suggests no more than his early wanderings, as the ancient architecture and veil on the back of Christ's head may allude to his teaching in the synagogue after gathering the first apostles (Mark I:14–22). The story of Christ's mission with his "fishers of men," as described by Mark, would seem the probable inspiration for a series of paintings depicting Jesus and the apostles, especially in Rembrandt's Amsterdam, where preaching was the central form of church service.

[2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Inscribed (right center): Rembrandt f. / 1661
Sir C. Bethell Codrington, Baronet, Dodington Park, Gloucestershire (by 1836–d. 1843; his estate sale, May 12, 1843, no. 165, for £252 to Nieuwenhuys); [Chrétien J. Nieuwenhuys, London, from 1843]; baron de Mecklembourg, Paris (until 1854; his estate sale, Paris, December 11, 1854, no. 15, for Fr 13,000 to Raczynski); Count Raczynski, Rogalin, Poland (1854–1927; sold for $150,000 to Duveen ); [Duveen, Paris, London, and New York, 1927; sold for $300,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1927–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 38; 1943, no. 37)
Amsterdam. Stedelijk Museum. "Rembrandt Schilderijen," September 8–October 31, 1898, no. 114 (as "Studie voor een Christus," lent by Edward, Graaf Raczynski, Posen [Poznan]).

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450–1900," January 4–March 9, 1929, no. 127 (as "Jesus Christ," lent by Jules S. Bache).

Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum. "Rembrandt Tentoonstelling," June 11–September 4, 1932, no. 35 (as "Christus," lent by Jules S. Bache, New York).

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Rembrandt," April 17–29, 1933, no. 12 (as "The Pilgrim," lent by Jules Bache).

New York. Duveen Galleries. "Paintings by the Great Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century," October 8–November 7, 1942, no. 51 (lent by the Bache Collection, New York).

Yokohama. Sogo Museum of Art. "Rembrandt and the Bible," October 31–December 23, 1986, no. 12.

Fukuoka Art Museum. "Rembrandt and the Bible," January 6–February 1, 1987, no. 12.

National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. "Rembrandt and the Bible," February 7–March 22, 1987, no. 12.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 37.

Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits," January 30–May 1, 2005, no. 12 (as "The Apostle James the Minor[?]").

Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum. "Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits," June 7–August 28, 2005, no. 12.

San Diego. Timken Museum of Art. "Rembrandt's Apostles," October 1, 2005–January 15, 2006, unnumbered cat.

Amsterdam. Museum Het Rembrandthuis. "Rembrandt: Zoektocht van een genie," April 1–July 2, 2006, unnumbered cat.

Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "Rembrandt, ein Genie auf der Suche," August 4–November 5, 2006, unnumbered cat.

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.

Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Rembrandt et la figure du Christ," April 21–July 18, 2011, no. 69.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus," August 3–October 30, 2011, no. 69.

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus," November 20, 2011–February 12, 2012, no. 69.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 7, London, 1836, pp. 32–33, no. 78, as "The Saviour," in the collection of Sir Bethel Codrington.

C. Vosmaer. Rembrandt, sa vie et ses ouevres. 2nd ed. The Hague, 1877, p. 562, as sold from the Mecklenbourg [Mecklembourg] collection in 1854 for Fr 13,000.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883, p. 522.

Eugène Dutuit. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885, pp. 58, 60, 70, no. 80, states that the present owner is unknown.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. De Rembrandt Tentoonstelling te Amsterdam. Amsterdam, [1898], unpaginated, no. 114.

Malcolm Bell. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899, p. 85, as in the collection of Count Raczynski in Posen [Poznan].

Wilhelm [von] Bode with the assistance of C. Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. Vol. 6, Paris, 1901, p. 9, no. 417, pl. 417, as in the Raczynski collection at Rogalin in Poznan; questions whether this painting depicts Christ, suggesting instead that the facial type, costume, and staff "seem rather to indicate a study of the Savior's brother James"; notes that it was etched by Smith [sic for Schmidt?] and Barnet.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1904, p. 262, ill. p. 224.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 578, ill. p. 454.

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. 118–19, no. 164, as etched by Schmidt and Barnet; gives provenance information.

Isabella Errera. Répertoire des peintures datées. Vol. 1, Brussels, 1920, p. 302, tentatively calls it Christ as a pilgrim.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Die Vier Evangelisten Rembrandts." Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt, n.s., 32 (December 17, 1920), p. 221, suggests that Rembrandt painted a series of the four Evangelists, with a Virgin and Christ in the center; states that the picture of Christ could have been this work, the one in the Orloff-Davidoff collection in St. Petersburg, or a picture in Munich.

D. S. Meldrum. Rembrandt's Paintings. London, 1923, p. 202, pl. CCCCXIII.

Werner Weisbach. Rembrandt. Berlin, 1926, pp. 498–99, calls it a personification of the spirit of Christ as man.

Max Eisler. Der alte Rembrandt. Vienna, 1927, p. 50, pl. 18, in text, refers to the sitter as a pilgrim; in the plate caption, gives the title as "Christus".

William Gibson. "The Dutch Exhibition at Burlington House." Apollo 8 (December 1928), ill. p. 320.

Édouard Brandus. "La collection des tableaux anciens de M. Jules S. Bache, à New-York." La Renaissance 11 (May 1928), pp. 192–94, ill. p. 189, as "Christ with a Pilgrim's Staff".

Arsène Alexandre. "L'art hollandais à la Royal Academy." La Renaissance 12 (March 1929), p. 122, ill. p. 121.

Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 4, ill. p. 21 (color).

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.

Illustrated London News (January 12, 1929), cover, ill. (drawing), depicts it in C. E. Turner's drawing of the Queen viewing the Dutch exhibition at Burlington House.

"The Dutch Art Exhibition." Supplement to the Illustrated London News (Janaury 5, 1929), ill. p. IX.

Royal Cortissoz. "The Jules S. Bache Collection." American Magazine of Art 21 (May 1930), p. 259, ill. p. 256.

W. R. Valentiner. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28 (April 26, 1930), p. 3, ill. following p. 4.

W. R. Valentiner. "Bust of Christ by Rembrandt." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit 12 (October 1930), p. 3, calls this a "resurrected Christ" figure.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, no. 151, pl. 151, repeats his identification of the figure [see Ref. 1930] as a "resurrected Christ".

A[braham]. Bredius. Rembrandt Gemälde. Vienna, 1935, p. 27, no. 629, pl. 629.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 38, ill.

Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 202, ill.

A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 37, ill.

Josephine L. Allen. "The Museum's Rembrandts." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (November 1945), p. 75, ill. p. 77.

Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 11 (November 1952), p. 84.

Otto Benesch. "Worldly and Religious Portraits in Rembrandt's Late Art." Art Quarterly 19 (Winter 1956), p. 351, fig. 14, refers to the figure as "Christ the teacher in the Synagogue," and states that the garment is that of an Eastern pilgrim; in figure caption, calls it "Christ or an Apostle".

W. R. Valentiner. "The Rembrandt Exhibition in Holland." Art Quarterly 19 (Winter 1956), p. 400, revises his earlier proposal [see Ref. 1920], suggesting that the central figure of the proposed apostle series is not the MMA work, but a half-length in the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls; believes that the MMA work probably depicts an apostle and did belong to the series.

H.-M. Rotermund. "Wandlungen des Christus-Typus bei Rembrandt." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 18 (1956), p. 230, fig. 182, identifies the sitter as a Jewish pilgrim and suggests that the pillar in the background is that of a temple.

Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966, p. 13, pl. 241, as possibly belonging to a series of Apostles.

Horst Gerson. Rembrandt Paintings. Ed. Gary Schwartz. Amsterdam, 1968, pp. 502–3, no. 369, ill. p. 429, agrees that it must have been part of a series.

Paolo Lecaldano in L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, p. 120, no. 397, ill. p. 121.

Horst Gerson, ed. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings.. By A[braham]. Bredius. 3rd ed. London, 1969, p. 615, no. 629, ill. p. 530.

Herbert von Einem. "Bemerkungen zum Christusbild Rembrandts." Das Münster 25, no. 5/6 (1972), p. 358, fig. 10, considers it am image of the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus.

J. Bolten and H. Bolten-Rempt. The Hidden Rembrandt. Milan, 1977, p. 201, no. 529, ill.

Walter L. Strauss and Marjon van der Meulen. The Rembrandt Documents. New York, 1979, p. 480, list it among works dated 1661.

Maryan W. Ainsworth et al. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer. New York, 1982, pp. 92, 98 n. 29, p. 99 nn. 62–63, p. 101, pls. 63, 64 (x-radiograph), 65 (autoradiograph), based on autoradiographs, doubts the attribution to Rembrandt.

Colin Simpson. Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. New York, 1986, pp. 209, 297 [excerpt published in Connoisseur 216 (October 1986), p. 127; British ed., "The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen," London, 1987].

Christian Tümpel. Rembrandt: Mythos und Methode. Königstein, 1986, p. 400, no. 86, ill. p. 342, as "Jakobus der Jüngere" [James the Less], noting that this apostle carried a walking stick.

Christopher Brown in Rembrandt and the Bible. Exh. cat., Sogo Museum of Art, Yokohama. [Tokyo], 1986, pp. 136, 154, no. 12, ill. pp. 68–69 (color, overall and detail) and on cover (color), considers it to be fully autograph and consistent with Rembrandt's work of the 1660s.

Paul Jeromack. "Être Rembrandt ou ne plus l'être." Connaissance des Arts no. 441 (November 1988), p. 103, ill. (color), states that it has been suggested that this is an early work by Aert de Gelder.

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, p. 52.

Pierre Cabanne. Rembrandt. [Paris], 1991, p. 152, no. 19, ill.

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. 32, 128–30, no. 37, ill. (color), agrees with Sonnenburg [see Ref. 1995] that it is not by Rembrandt, but by a follower; states that it remains possible that it was part of an intended series of apostles; dates it to the 1660s.

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. 6, 30, 53, 74, 118, 120, 126–28, 130, no. 37, ill. (color) and figs. 62 (color detail), 63 (x-radiograph detail), 160 (color detail), ascribes it to an artist in the circle of Rembrandt, perhaps Aert de Gelder; dates it to the 1660s.

Walter Liedtke. "Albert Blankert et al., 'Rembrandt: A Genius and His Impact'." Simiolus 26, no. 4 (1998), p. 313.

Christopher Wright. Rembrandt. Paris, 2000, pp. 172, 176, fig. 156 (color), says the image is certainly that of Jesus.

Peter C. Sutton in Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2005, pp. 111–13, 122, 136–37, no. 12, ill. (color), calls it "The Apostle James the Minor(?)" from the school of Rembrandt.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. in Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2005, pp. 29, 110, under no. 11, as "The Apostle James the Minor(?)".

Peter C. Sutton in Rembrandt's Apostles. Exh. cat., Timken Museum of Art. San Diego, 2005, pp. 40–45, ill. (color) [reprint of Ref. Sutton 2005, exh. cat. Washington].

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 42.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, p. xi; vol. 2, pp. 708, 766–71, 782, no. 174, colorpl. 174, concludes that it was most likely painted by a close follower of Rembrandt, and that its subject is probably Christ.

Teresa Posada Kubissa in Rembrandt, pintor de historias. Ed. Alejandro Vergara. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2008, p. 182, identifies the subject as Saint James the Minor.

Lloyd Dewitt et al. in Rembrandt et la figure du Christ. Ed. Lloyd Dewitt et al. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2011, p. 107 n. 48, pp. 113, 120, 198, 251, no. 69, ill. p. 251 (color) and colorpl. 4.8, as by Rembrandt's workshop; date it 1661.

Christopher Brown. "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus." Burlington Magazine 154 (May 2012), p. 375.

Old Masters: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. July 6, 2017, p. 139, under no. 30, as "Apostle James the Minor".

Etched by Georg Friedrich Schmidt and Barnet.
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