Old Woman Praying, 1629 by Rembrandt

All his life, Rembrandt painted his relatives, choosing particular moments, poses, clothes and hairstyles. The memorable series of paintings depicting his wife Saskia, arguably the most intense sequence of paintings ever to be devoted by an artist to his companion, was preceded and followed by countless others. Family members are usually shown as "characters", almost as though specializing in a few specific roles in a universal theatre, so works in which they feature can usually be viewed as interpretations rather than portraits. The artist's mother is an infirm, devoted old woman, his father a picturesque, gruff old man, his sister Lijsbeth a l arge, comely, and rather vacant-looking blonde, and his son Titus a child who discovers the beauty and wonder of the world for the first time. Saskia warrants a separate analysis. Her painted and engraved portraits tell the story of their marriage, from the joy of the early years to its dramatic conclusion.

In Old Woman Praying, Rembrandt's mother, unnaturally aged and wrinkled, acted as a model for her son on many occasions, becoming the very image of old age.