Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
1621 – Amsterdam – 1674

An Old Beggar: ‘Bedelaer Bestevaer’


Black chalk on paper 156 x 104 mm


Inscribed lower centre: Bedelaer

…; collection Émile-Louis-Dominique Calando (1840-99), Paris; 1…; collection Paul Russell (1954- ), Amsterdam, from whom acquired


Gerbrand van den Eeckhout was the son of a goldsmith, Jan Pietersz van den Eeckhout, and trained with Rembrandt in Amsterdam between 1635 and 1640. The eighteenth-
century biographer of artists Arnold Houbraken praises him in his Groote Schouburgh as one of Rembrandt’s most talented pupils. In addition to a varied corpus of paintings
Van den Eeckhout left a no less diverse oeuvre of drawings, executed in an array of
techniques. The present sheet represents an old greybeard sitting on the ground and
begging for alms. His eyes can’t see and the crutches on the ground tell us he is lame.
Van den Eeckhout’s teacher Rembrandt had been unique in his extensive exploration of
the theme of beggars during the late 1620s and early 1630s. Vagabonds, cripples and
beggars even constituted his most common subject in his prints and drawings. When
Van den Eeckhout became Rembrandt’s pupil in around 1635, Rembrandt was still
immersed in this subject matter.

It comes as no surprise that many of Rembrandt’s pupils inherited the fascination for images of poverty and disability. This drawing dates from Van den Eeckhout’s maturity, when he has moved away from his master’s energetic drawing style to a smoother and more sensitive manner. Van den Eeckhout exploited the velvety quality of the black chalk to the full in this subtle drawing, which is prominently inscribed in large, elegant letters.2

1. His mark (Lugt 837) lower left recto. 2 As far as known, the two words don’t make up a saying or proverb.
2. A bedelaer is a beggar and a bestevaer is an old man. In old sources the latter term often has a sympathetic connotation.