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Rembrandt van Rijn

Biography

Dutch, 1606 - 1669

Self-Portrait

Oil on canvas

Andrew W. Mellon Collection

Flora

Oil on canvas

91.8 x 100 cm

Unlike many of his ambitious contemporaries, Rembrandt never traveled to Italy. Nonetheless, Italian art had a profound effect on him; in this depiction of the Roman goddess of spring, he responded to the sixteenth-century Venetian master Titian in particular. Still, the somber coloration and rough paint handling make this work unmistakably Rembrandt’s own, and the goddess may be based in part on a portrait of the artist’s deceased wife, Saskia, who had been the muse and inspiration for many of his paintings.

Man with a Magnifying Glass

Oil on canvas

74.3 x 91.4 cm

This portrait most likely depicts the Amsterdam auctioneer Pieter Haringh (1609–1685), who once handled the sale of a famous portrait by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael that served Rembrandt as a source of inspiration. The sitter may have used the magnifying glass in his hand to evaluate paintings and other luxury goods circulating on the busy Amsterdam art market. Like his wife in the pendant portrait also on view here, the sitter wears a form of fancy dress that has little to do with Dutch clothing worn at the time.

Woman with a Pink

Oil on canvas

74.6 x 92.1 cm

Her forehead crisscrossed with jewels, the sitter of this portrait displays a pink, or carnation, a symbol of love and marriage. The gilt picture frame visible in the background locates her in a luxurious interior, but her pensive expression elevates the portrait beyond a mere statement of status. If scholars are correct in identifying the sitter in the pendant portrait hanging next to this one as Pieter Haringh, then the woman who appears here must be his wife, Elisabeth Delft (ca. 1620–1679).

Herman Doomer (ca. 1595–1650)

Oil on wood

55.2 x 75.2 cm

Herman Doomer was a successful cabinetmaker who worked with the imported ebony fashionable in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. The exceptional care Rembrandt took with this likeness may indicate his esteem for a fellow master artisan. At roughly the same time Rembrandt painted the portrait of Doomer and a companion piece of his wife (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), the couple’s son Lambert was an apprentice in the artist’s studio.

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer

Oil on canvas

136.5 x 143.5 cm

Among The Met’s most celebrated works of art, this painting conveys Rembrandt’s meditation on the meaning of fame. The richly clad Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) rests his hand pensively on a bust of Homer, the epic poet who had attained literary immortality with his Iliad and Odyssey centuries before. Aristotle wears a gold medallion with a portrait of his powerful pupil, Alexander the Great; perhaps the philosopher is weighing his own worldly success against Homer’s timeless achievement. Although the work has come to be considered quintessentially Dutch, it was painted for a Sicilian patron at a moment when Rembrandt’s signature style, with its dark palette and almost sculptural buildup of paint, was beginning to fall out of fashion in Amsterdam.

Portrait of a Man

Oil on wood

52.1 x 75.6 cm

Painted just after Rembrandt’s arrival in Amsterdam, this well-preserved portrait reveals the talent that enabled the young artist to quickly make a name for himself in the Dutch Republic’s largest and most artistically competitive city. The oval format was fashionable at the time, and the linen folds of the man’s ruff offered Rembrandt the chance to display his signature vigorous brushwork. Nothing is known about the man’s identity, and the inscription giving his age as forty is most likely by a later hand.

Self-Portrait

Oil on canvas

67.3 x 80.3 cm

Rembrandt was a dedicated self-portraitist all his life, and roughly forty self-portraits by him survive today. In this example, painted when Rembrandt was fifty-four, the artist was unsparing in depicting the signs of aging in his own face, building up the paint in high relief to convey his furrowed brow, the heavy pouches beneath his eyes, and his double chin. The recent removal of a synthetic varnish has revealed more of Rembrandt’s working method, showing for example how he flipped the brush to incise with its butt end the rough curls spilling out of his cap.

Man in Oriental Costume ("The Noble Slav")

Oil on canvas

111.1 x 152.7 cm

Compared with Rembrandt's formal portraits of the same year, this picture is remarkable for its brilliant brushwork and dramatic illumination. It was probably painted shortly after he moved from his native Leiden to Amsterdam, and in its exotic subject and style was surely intended for a knowledgeable collector. Pictures of imaginary Persian, Ottoman, or otherwise "Oriental" princes were popular at the time because of new trade contacts between the Dutch and the Middle East. However, the model is a Dutchman who appears in other paintings by Rembrandt and by artists in his circle.

The Toilet of Bathsheba

Oil on wood

76.2 x 57.2 cm

Rembrandt shows the biblical figure Bathsheba completely nude, lost in a moment of contemplation and unaware that she is being observed by King David in the distant tower in the background. Classicist critics particularly objected to Rembrandt’s realistic representation of the female body, declaring that the marks of garters could be seen on the legs of his figures from history or myth—see Bathsheba’s left calf here. Like much of the picture, the attendant arranging Bathsheba’s hair is badly abraded from past cleaning, but she may have been intended to represent a woman of African origin.