The Departure of the Shunammite Woman, 1640 by Rembrandt

Although Rembrandt's preoccupations in the latter half of the 1630s has been with the large, dramatic and even sensational pictures, he occasionally painted small works which unfortunately are often overlooked, as they do not readily fit into a general pattern. Some of these little works have all the grace and intimacy of so many of his contemporaries. Metsu and Terborch have been adored for these qualities, the ability to record the trivial with such charm that the spectator accepts without question the banal subject-matter.

A picture of this type, but inevitably with Rembrandt of interesting or curious subject-matter, is the little figure on a horse accompanied by two other figures, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It has been considered to represent The Departure of the Shunamite Woman. The whole painting is rather dark; it is painted largely with a range of browns and a certain amount of red. The woman on the donkey has all the sad air of a reluctant departure, while the old man makes a gesture in the direction in which the woman is to go. Perhaps it is looking too far ahead to suggest that even on this tiny scale there is an inkling of The Night Watch, which was to be painted only two years later.