Saturday 15 August 2015

Rembrandt at the Maurithuis

Ten masterpieces that span the artist's career. You can see another post on Rembrandt here   

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, 1632
Rembrandt was only twenty five when he was asked to paint the portraits of the Amsterdam surgeons. He portrayed the surgeons in action, and they are all looking at different things. It looks as though Rembrandt captured the men at a specific instant in time, but in fact the painting is a careful and very well thought out composition. Dynamism is added to the scene by the great contrasts between light and dark. In this group portrait, the young painter displayed his legendary technique and his great talent for painting lifelike portraits.
The viewer's attention is focused on Tulp, who demonstrates how the muscles of the arm are attached. The corpse's arm has been laid open for the purpose. The body used for these public autopsies was usually that of a criminal, in this case Adriaen het Kint. The names of the men portrayed in the picture are listed on the piece of paper held by the man at the back.

Tronie of a Man with a Feathered Beret, 1635-1640

The Laughing Man, 1629-1630
Andromeda, 1630

Unlike other artists who have depicted Andromeda's story, Rembrandt has isolated Andromeda. Moving away from Classical conventions of beauty he has depicted her as a frightened young woman, imperfect and flawed. Rembrandt's nudes elicited vehement criticism when first shown, described as anti-classical, ugly and unpleasant. Rembrandt's aim was a lifelike depiction, expressing 'the passions of the soul', thereby engaging the viewer's profound empathy.


 Suzanna, 1636

Self-Portrait with a Gorget, 1629

No 17th century artist made as many self-portraits as Rembrandt did. H. Perry Chapman has observed that they represent a conscious and progressive quest for individual identity in a truly modern sense, 'a necessary process of identity formation or self definition, in short, autobiography'.


Self-Portrait, 1669
This is his last self-portrait, and almost his last painting. It's as surely and powerfully painted as the portraits of the 1650s. He made only one later alteration, the gold-coloured stripes on the cap to make it harmonize with the finely painted background, the grey hair and flesh tones of the face. The expressive freedom of style shows that Rembrandt was certainly not exhausted at the end of his life. The way he painted the face with strong brushstrokes is remarkable. With thick layers of paint that are almost modelled, Rembrandt suggests a man of flesh and blood. Throughout his later work, Rembrandt focused on depicting the gaze: usually one that reflects thoughtfulness, suffering or some other implied inner complexity. His paintings of people, including the self-portraits suggest an inner person, a soul, or character, or whatever we want to call it.

The way he painted no longer suited contemporary taste. People wanted cool, evenly painted pictures of elevating subjects, and that is precisely what Rembrandt's paintings were not. Nearly two centuries had to pass before Rembrandt was again widely recognised as a painter of genius, the painter who surpassed all his contemporaries.

Simeons's Song of Praise, 1631 

Rembrandt's brilliance in this genre is demonstrated in this painting. The elderly Simeon was promised that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Rembrandt depicts a divinely illuminated Simeon acknowledging the child in his arms. Mary and Joseph sink in astonishment while the prophetess Anna appears before the group to offer a blessing.

Portrait of an Elderly Man, 1667

Two Moors, 1661


  1. What a wondrous collection. The elderly man looks as if he is just about to rise out of his chair, chatting the while. What a powerful talent.

  2. Olga, it was great being able to look at the paintings without the crowds we had in London. A real treat.