Saskia as Flora, 1634 by Rembrandt

In 1642, Rembrandt was at the peak of his fame and economic success thanks to a number of factors: the favourable reception of The Night Watch and The Hundred Guilder Print; the support of his many pupils; the growing requests for works of art; and the praise of art writers. Parallel to all this success, however, came a series of bereavements: having already buried both his parents, Saskia's cherished sister, and three of his children who died in infancy, Rembrandt now faced the gravest loss of all Saskia. After giving birth to Titus (who was baptized in September 1641), the physical strain of childbirth was compounded by tuberculosis and she was unable to recover. Aged just 30, Saskia died on June 14,1642. After a provisional burial, she was laid to rest on July 9 in the left-hand transept of the Oudekerk.

In this last portrait of the dying Saskia, there are circles under her eyes, she is visibly frail, and her hair is dry and faded. Rembrandt does not forget her gentle smile, however, and gives her the tender gift of a single red flower. The contrast between this moving portrait and the flourishing pictures of Saskia as Flora in earlier years, in which she is , shown surrounded by a ' multitude of flowers, is striking. It captures the awareness of imminent death and expresses, an eternally enduring declaration of love.