A Woman at her Toilet, 1632 or 1633
Rembrandt van Rijn
oil on canvas
109.2 x 94.4 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6089)
The confusion over the subject of this painting dates back to the 18th century, when the picture was known as "The Jewish Bride". Given the woman's lavish apparel and jewellery, the reference was probably to an Old Testament character and not a contemporary subject. The book or document on the table in the background could refer either to King David's message to Bathsheba, which led to her affair with the king (II Samuel 11:4), or to King Ahasuerus's edict against the Jews and Esther's impending intercession with him on behalf of her people (Esther 5:1). The image of the woman in her dressing room assisted by an elderly maid and obviously preparing for an event of importance fits either story.