Canoodling couple could be Rembrandt and Saskia

Part of Willem Basse’s etching. Rijksmuseum collection

A 17th century etching showing a canoodling couple may represent Rembrandt and his wife Saskia, according to an article in the Volkskrant .

The etching was found when Rijksmuseum curator Jane Turner and her colleagues were preparing for High Society, the Rijksmuseum’s exhibition of 39 full length portraits of the high and mighty through the ages which opens tomorrow.

Turner was looking for less edifying scenes to contrast with the opulence on show in the portraits but the etching, by Willem Basse (1613/14-1672), caught her attention for a different reason.

The couple were wearing the same sort of clothes as Marten and Oopjen, whose wedding portraits by Rembrandt have also returned to the museum’s walls. And, according to Turner, Basse may have seen the portraits. She discovered that in 1634, the year Rembrandt painted the couple, Basse worked with Rembrandt on a book of etchings. But Turner’s theory doesn’t stop there.

Eyebrows

‘The people in the etching are Rembrandt and his wife Saskia. Look at his little moustache and her eyebrows,’ the paper quotes her as saying. Because Rembrandt and Saskia got married in the same year , Turner thinks the etching may have been a wedding present, an inside joke by Basse.

Turner emphasised that she has no proof for her theory but said the etching makes sense as a wedding present because it has the same ingredients as a best man’s wedding speech which usually contain references to sex and a prosperous future.

‘Perhaps Basse meant to say that he hoped they would become as prosperous as Marten and Oopjen,’ she told the paper.

The wedding portraits in question, bought by the Dutch and French for €80m each, have been restored and will be on show until September when they will move to the Louvre.