The Kolf Player
"The Golf Player"
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Bartsch 125 i/ii; Hind 272; B.-B. 54-A; G. 121
Platemark: 9.5 x 14.3 cm (3 3/4 x 5 5/8 in.) Sheet: 10.3 x 15 cm (4 1/16 x 5 7/8 in.) Mount (18th-century English): 15.4 x 18.9 cm (6 1/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Etching with plate tone
Not On View
Rembrandt occasionally made etched sketches of people engaged in leisure time pursuits: card playing, celebrating, bathing, or–as here–enjoying the pleasures of rest, sport, and conversation. Lacking the visual tradition that influenced his religious imagery and portraiture, his images of everyday life were sometimes strikingly unconventional. Such is the case with “The Kolf Player,” the name of which alludes to the figure in the background at the left.
The image is often referred to as “The Golf Player,” but that is a misnomer. The man at the left is playing kolf, a centuries-old Dutch sport that continues to be played in the northern provinces. Kolf is a cousin of golf, but players use large curved clubs to roll large balls with the objective of striking sticks–one placed at either end of the court. The game can be played indoors or out, on dirt, ice, or wooden floors. Like bocci and billiards, it is often played in or near taverns, and the pace allows time for conversation.
Rembrandt’s compositions often contain ambiguous architectural spaces. The present etching features a foreground figure in a dusky space, perhaps an interior. He sits, leg extended, on a bench. He leans with his elbow on a table and his back against a wall. At the left we look out a door–or at least past the wall–where we see the kolfer about to roll the ball. Just beyond the seated man, we look through the wall–but not through a clearly defined window–where two men sit and seemingly converse.
The mood is very quiet, perhaps melancholic. The seated man’s face is in shadow and his expression somewhat downcast. The emotional tenor is especially pronounced in the present impression, for Rembrandt left a substantial film of ink on the surface of the copper plate. For most impressions, the surface of the plate was wiped clean. The extra ink in this impression deepens the shadows of the interior and suggests chilly, overcast weather rather than warm sunshine outside.
Lower right in pen and brown ink, Gersaint's number: 121
On 18th-century English mount, in pen and brown ink: Sport of Kolef--very scarce--
On 18th-century English mount, in graphite pencil: No. 121.
Helmut H. Rumbler (Frankfurt); from whom purchased by MFA, March 26, 2008.
Katherine E. Bullard Fund in memory of Francis Bullard