Rembrandt Looking in the Mirror

Rembrandt Paintings Self portrait in Amsterdam Museum
This beautiful self portrait from Rembrandt is a must-see!

No other 17th-century artist produced as many self-portraits as the great Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. From his early years as a rising talent in Leiden (the Netherlands) until shorty before his death, he routinely chose his own facial features as the subject of penetrating study. He had good reason for doing so, for what model is as inexpensive, patient and readily available as Rembrandt himself? In this way he could practice endlessly. Peering in the mirror he first perfected his drawing etching and painting techniques. He practiced rendering powerful contrasts of light and capturing subtle shadows. He made funny faces before the mirror learning how to convey all manner of emotions. Once Rembrandt had mastered that, he went on to portray himself in a variety of roles, garbed in old-fashioned, 16th-century clothes or biblical dress. Rembrandt became thoroughly familiar with his own face, and now we can, too.

Rembrandt Paintings Self-portrait

As inexperienced as he is, the young Rembrandt does not shy away from experimenting. Here the light rakes his right cheek while the rest of Rembrandt’s face is enveloped in shadow. It takes a moment to realize that he is peering out of you. Rembrandt accentuated the curls of his tousled hair by drawing in the wet paint with the butt end of his paintbrush.

Rembrandt Self Portrait as Apostle Paul

Rembrandt Paintings Paulus Petrus
Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1661

Rembrandt is 55 year old in this self-portrait, and he still looks at himself candidly. Here he assumes the guise of a personage from the Bible, the Apostle Paul. The sword protruding from his cloak and the manuscript in his hands are the apostle’s customary attributes. By using his own face, Rembrandt encouraged the viewer to engage personally with the saint.

Rembrandt etching

Rembrandt van Rijn etchings

Rembrandt derived much inspiration from the figures he came across outdoors. However, he did not etch out on the street. He produced his prints indoors, in his workshop. His observations are no less telling for that fact. Both the beggar couple and the poor wretch with the wooden leg seem to be calling out loud, while the peasant in the middle looks on expectantly.

Rembrandt’s Family as model

rembrandt's mother etching
Rembrandt’s mother etching in 1631.

When Rembrandt still lived in Leiden, his mother and father were obvious choices as models. He depicted them regularly, closely studying their wrinkled skin of his father’s flowing beard. Other people in his immediate circle also served him as subjects, and he exhibited an unmistakeable fascination for characterful worn and aged heads. Initially they were exercises in capturing the signs of old age. As his skill improved Rembrandt depicted his figures in increasingly larger formats, in oriental clothing or with a striking headdress, and preferably with a slight air of melancholy. And, a touch of fantasy was by no means to be avoided. This type of depiction was called a “tronie” in the 17th-century. The genre – in which not the identity, but rather the picturesque quality of the figure is key – was extremely popular.

Rembrandt Paintings: Stories from the bible

Van Rijn Bible Art
What distinguishes Rembrandt, is his capacity to make the Bible stories human.

The bible was an important source of inspiration for every ambitious 17th-century artist. Rembrandt rendered countless biblical stories, from both the Old and the New Testament. Here, too, it is clear just how good he was at telling a story. Rembrandt unerringly chose the most striking moment. Sometimes this is the dramatic high point, sometimes precisely the instant preceding it, when everyone is still holding his or her breath and awaiting the climax. Like a stage director, he groups his characters together and uses gestures and facial expressions to clarify what is transpiring. What also distinguishes Rembrandt, is his capacity to make the Bible stories human, and the emotions involved palpable. It concerns love, joy, sorrow, desperation or relief. Note just how skillfully he rendered Abraham, who bows deeply when he suddenly realizes that the guests he has invited to share a meal with him are not ordinary mortals. Displayed in the gallery of the Rijksmuseum are Rembrandt’s Old Testament scenes in which he unfailingly goest straight to the heart of the matter, depicting it in a personal and poignant manner.

Rembrandt paintings: an old woman reading

rembrandt paintings woman old
Rembrandt old woman reading. Most likely Prophetess Anna.

Here the light comes from behind the old woman: the brightest illumination falls on the book and her wrinkled hand, modelled with paint. Look at how Rembrandt painted her hand, unbelievable!

Her face remains in the shadow. She could be the prophetess Anna, an elderly widow who, according to the Bible, served God through fasting and prayer. Tradition has it that Rembrandt’s mother posed for this painting.

Her face remains in the shadow. She could be the prophetess Anna, an elderly widow who, according to the Bible, served God through fasting and prayer. Tradition has it that Rembrandt’s mother posed for this painting.

Rembrandt Jan Six 1647

Jan Six House Etching
Jan Six etched by Van Rijn in 1647.

Rembrandt was befriended for some time with the well-to-do Jan Six, who later served as mayor of Amsterdam. He portrays him here in a highly informal manner, standing near an open window and reading a book. The detailed, skillful rendering of the dark room, in particular, is an unsurpassed feat in the art of etching.

Portrait of a woman – Possibly Maria Trip

maria trip rijksmuseum
Rembrandt’s portrait of Maria Trip in the Rijksmuseum.

Maria’s father amassed enormous wealth through trade in iron and arms. In 1639 she was 20 years old and still unmarried. In this portrait, she makes no bones of the fact that she has money to spend. Her neckerchief is made of the finest, almost transparent lace, and she wears a fortune in pearls. Fans, like that in her left hand, were still rare and precious accessoires in 1639.

Rembrandt Paintings Worth

Imagine, you have a painting that is worth 1000 euros which comes from the time of Rembrandt. If you find an expert who can say; this painting is not only from the time of Rembrandt, this painting was made by a student of Rembrandt, then it is worth 20.000 euros. If you then find an expert who says; this has been made by a famous student of Rembrandt, then it is worth 200.000 euros. If you then find an expert who says; Rembrandt has signed that right hand, then the painting is worth 2 million euros. And if you can find an expert who says; this is entirely painted by Rembrandt van Rijn then the painting is worth 20 million euros. (Source: Arthur Brandt)

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Rembrandt was one of the best painters in the world. Go see the Rembrandt paintings and visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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