In his Leiden years, Rembrandt made a number of etchings of an old woman, sometimes only of her head, sometimes as a half-figure, sitting in a chair, as in this etching from 1631. The woman is traditionally regarded as the mother of the artist, Neeltgen Willemsdr. van Zuytbroeck. This identification can already be found in an inventory (1679) of the Amsterdam print dealer Clement de Jonghe, who had a number of Rembrandt's etching plates in his possession. Also E.F. Gersaint describes one of the prints of the old woman as a portrait of Rembrandt’s mother, in his 1751 catalogue of etchings. Rembrandt's mother was about 60 years old around 1630. The old woman in Rembrandt's etchings certainly makes an older impression. We are probably dealing here with an old woman from Rembrandt's circle who occasionally posed for him. Her identity remains shrouded in darkness.
Of all the prints Rembrandt made of the old woman, this etching gives the impression of being a portrait the most. The woman is sitting in a high chair behind a table, she gazes, almost inwardly. It is a pose that would mainly be used in portraits and that Rembrandt might have copied from Jan Lievens (1607-1674). The print shows how practiced Rembrandt had become in etching. The attention is primarily drawn to the old woman's face. This is modeled in fine, thin lines that emphasize every wrinkle. The woman's clothing, the fur-edged cloak, her headscarf and skirt, and the table are much darker in tone. Rembrandt achieved this through deeper lines and a great variety in the lines. Finally, he added the shadows on the left with a burin.