Titus Puzzling over His Lessons, 1655 by Rembrandt

When Saskia passed away, she had left Rembrandt with a small income from her estate with the proviso that it ceased if he were to remarry. He did not immediately take a mistress in order to have the best of both worlds; but it seems that a serving maid in his household by name of Hendrickje Stoffels gradually found a place in the artist's affections, and in 1654, some nine years or so after she had entered the household, she bore him a daughter Cornelia. Hendrickje must have acted as mother to Titus, who had been born just before Saskia's death, and Rembrandt began to paint one of the most touching series of pictures in the whole of the Western tradition of painting: that is, the careful observation every year or two of the growing up of his son and then of his gradual, tragic dissolution and death just before Rembrandt himself.

Titus Puzzling over His Lessons is the sort of picture that can only be inspired by the deepest sense of affection. It is amusing to speculate on the idea that poor Titus was having a hard time remembering the lessons upon which his father insisted. Rembrandt has caught perfectly the moment when the problem has got the better of the child. Titus' expression is a mixture of puzzlement and childish sorrow designed to appeal to the all-too-susceptible parent who will soon come to the rescue with the answer.