Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet

Reading passage

Rembrandt is the most famous of the seventeenth-century Dutch painters. However, there are doubts whether some paintings attributed to Rembrandt were actually painted by him. One such painting is known as Portrait of an Elderly Woman in
a White Bonnet. The painting was attributed to Rembrandt because of its style, and
indeed the representation of the woman’s face is very much like that of portraits
known to be by Rembrandt. But there are problems with the painting that suggest it
could not be a work by Rembrandt.
First, there is something inconsistent about the way the woman in the portrait is
dressed. She is wearing a white linen cap of a kind that only servants would wear—
yet the coat she is wearing has a luxurious fur collar that no servant could afford.
Rembrandt, who was known for his attention to the details of his subjects’ clothing,
would not have been guilty of such an inconsistency.
Second, Rembrandt was a master of painting light and shadow, but in this painting these elements do not fit together. The face appears to be illuminated by light
reflected onto it from below. But below the face is the dark fur collar, which would
absorb light rather than reflect it. So the face should appear partially in shadow—
which is not how it appears. Rembrandt would never have made such an error.
Finally, examination of the back of the painting reveals that it was painted on a
panel made of several pieces of wood glued together. Although Rembrandt often
painted on wood panels, no painting known to be by Rembrandt uses a panel glued
together in this way from several pieces of wood.
For these reasons the painting was removed from the official catalog of Rembrandt’s paintings in the 1930s.

Lecture transcript

Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.
Everything you just read about Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet is
true, and yet, after a thorough reexamination of the painting, a panel of experts has
recently concluded that it’s indeed a work by Rembrandt. And here’s why.
First, the fur collar. X-rays and analysis of the pigments in the paint have shown
that the fur collar wasn’t part of the original painting. The fur collar was painted over
the top of the original painting about a hundred years after the painting was made.
Why? Someone probably wanted to increase the value of the painting by making it
look like a formal portrait of an aristocratic lady.
Second, the supposed error with light and shadow. Once the paint of the added
fur collar was removed, the original painting could be seen. In the original painting
the woman is wearing a simple collar of light-colored cloth. The light-colored cloth of
this collar reflects light that illuminates part of the woman’s face. That’s why the face
is not in partial shadow. So in the original painting, light and shadow are very realistic
and just what we would expect from Rembrandt.
Finally, the wood panel. It turns out that when the fur collar was added, the wood
panel was also enlarged with extra wood pieces glued to the sides and the top to
make the painting more grand—and more valuable. So the original painting is actually
painted on a single piece of wood—as would be expected from a Rembrandt painting.
And in fact, researchers have found that the piece of wood in the original form of Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet is from the very same tree as the wood
panel used for another painting by Rembrandt, his Self-Portrait with a Hat.
Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they answer the
specific problems presented in the reading passage

My essay!

The reading and lecture discuss whether a famous painting known as Portrait of an Eldery Wonan in a White Bonnet is indeed a Rembrandt’s painting or not. On one hand the reading states that Rembrandt is not the author of this piece of art. On the other hand the professor believes that Eldery Wonan in a White Bonnet was in fact painted by Rembrandt.

First, the reading says that there is a inconsistency in the painting; as Rembrandt was very attentious for details, he would never make a error like this. Howerver, the professor refutes this argument saying that the original painting was altered in order to increase its value; in the original piece the fur collar does not exist.

Second, the reading states that this painting has a error related to combination of light and shadow; again Rembrandt would never make this mistake. The lecture attributes this error to the modification made in the original painting.

Last, the passage argues that the painting was painted on a panel of several pieces of wood and there is none Rembrandt’s painting using panels like this. The lecturer explains that this different woods were add later and the original painting used a only piece of wood that is was used others Rembrandt’s panels.

In conclusion, the reading believes that Eldery Wonan in a White Bonnet was painted by Rembrandt while the professors disagrees with this.

TOEFL listening discussions: A conversation between a university professor and a student in the professor’s office

Hi Nayara, what you have here sounds pretty clear and natural. You managed to capture the main points from the lecture, but you missed most of the secondary details. In this type of question, the graders are looking to see how much of the lecture you were able to understand and communicate in your essay, so to get a top grade you have to capture almost all of the lecture’s points. Overall, I would rate this a 4 out of 5.