Agnes is on retreat! Agnes’s galleries are closed until June 2023,  keep your eye on our website for upcoming public programs. Read more.


Collection Count + Care with Rembrandt van Rijn and Erika DeFreitas

Over the past year, a team of researchers from Agnes and the Master in Art Conservation Program at Queen’s has studied Rembrandt van Rijn’s Head of an Old Man in a Cap with various new imaging methods. This includes scanning macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF), a technique that measures and visualises the distribution of specific elements throughout the paint layers, which can shed new light on the painting process and materials used. In the process of this study, an underlying earlier composition by the artist was identified. Based on characteristics rendered visible in the resulting images, such as the cobalt map seen here, a bust in profile emerges from underneath the paint surface. It is known from other examples that the young Rembrandt, who was around 24 years old when he painted this work, would frequently reuse panels with incomplete or unsatisfactory creations.

The small panel is paired here with recently acquired work by Toronto-based artist Erika DeFreitas. The three photos form part of a larger series that documents the artist during a free movement performance using her late grandmother’s handmade doily. As such uniting creative processes along a maternal lineage, the fabric configurations emanating from the artist’s mouth also recall the nineteenth-century ectoplasm photographs of the Manitoban doctor T. G. Hamilton (1873–1935). Seeking to document the embodied interaction between mediums and the spiritual world, Hamilton turned to photography—then at the forefront of imaging technology—to capture presences indiscernible to the naked eye. Brought together, Rembrandt’s and DeFreitas’s work bring into focus an array of tensions between study and portrait, the visible and invisible, surface and depth, self and other, and loss and creation.




Suzanne van de Meerendonk, Bader Curator of European Art

Collection Count + Care seeks relationships within and conversations across the collection. What stories does the collection tell? / Prise en compte, prise à cœur cherche à tisser des liens et des dialogues entre les œuvres de la collection. Quelles histoires la collection raconte-t-elle?

Installation view of Collection Count + Care. Photo: Tim Forbes

Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of an Old Man in a Cap, around 1630, oil on panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003

Works / Œuvres

Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of an Old Man in a Cap / Tête de vieil homme au chapeau, around 1630 / vers 1630, oil on panel / huile sur panneau. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003 / Don d’Alfred et Isabel Bader, 2003

Erika DeFreitas, A Teleplasmic Study with Doilies (A Selection) / Étude téléplasmique avec des napperons (sélection), 2010–2011, digital photographs (3) / photographies numériques (3). Gift of Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue, 2021 / Don d’Allyson Mitchell et Deirdre Logue, 2021


Johnson, Johnston and Macrae Investment Group, part of CIBC Private Wealth Wood Gundy is the sponsor for Collection Count + Care and its related programs.

Queen’s Art Conservation Program would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Jarislowsky Foundation.

Music: Thinking of Driving by Kjartan Abel

Videography: Jay Middaugh

Image Credits

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.