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Rembrandt Self-Portraits


Rembrandt Self-Portrait, 1627, Kassel, Staatliche Museen.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1629, Munich, Alte Pinathothek.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open-Mouthed, 1630, etching.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1634. Florence, Uffizi.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1629, The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Chapman, p. 36: In 1628 or 1629 Rembrandt began to portray himself wearing armor, usually a gorget, a practice that would continue well into the 1630s....Rembrandt had no connection with any military organization prior to his commission for The Nightwatch of 1642, the armor in his self-portraits amounts to an ideal guide. Armor in portraits traditionally pointed to martial prowess, moral fiber, and triumph over death. In the Netherlands after the revolt against Spain armor acquired patriotic associations and served to declare the sitter's allegiance to the fatherland. Moreover, a wealth of martial imagery in art of the period suggests that fortitude and patriotism became tied to the Dutch artist's concept of his profession. The idea that the Art of Painting must battle its adversaries was already part of established allegorical tradition: as reinterpreted by the Dutch, the painter's role as protector of his craft became fused with his defense of the fatherland. The painter thus declared his professional allegiance to the values of the new republic, independence, freedom, and prosperity...

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1629. Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Chapman, p. 46:...Rembrandt asserts his sense of importance. His fancy dress consists of a sumptuous silvery-blue beret adorned with a large ostrich plume and jeweled band, a silk scarf, a mustard-yellow mantle, and a chain of ornate links with a heavy medallion, all rendered with careful attention to detail and texture. Evocative handling of light and shadow is one of the painting's most distinctive features: sharp light strikes Rembrandt's hat, his shoulders, and the right side of his face, leaving his eyes and much of his face in darkness.

p.47: Most extraordinary, however, are the chains around his neck. These were often worn in self-portraits, but most, like that in the portrait of Rubens painted for Charles I, were real chains, given to the painter by a noble patron. Rembrandt, however, had not been granted one, nor would he be. His historicized costume and chain, in particular, reflect not his actual circumstances but an appearance that depends heavily on artistic convention. By reinterpreting this self-portrait convention he formulated an ideal of the painter that distinguished him from te typical Dutch artist and removed him from his everyday reality.


Rembrandt, Self-Portrait as a Burgher, 1632. Glasgow, The Burrell Collection.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait as an Oriental Potentate, 1634.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, c. 1643.

Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of Philip the Good, after 1450.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at a Window, 1648, 2nd state.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait in a Soft Hat and Embroidered Cloak, 1631, etching, fifth state.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1633, Louvre.

Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640, London, National Gallery.


Rembrandt, Self Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639, etching.

In this portrait and the etching Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, Rembrandt takes on another guise, that of the Renaissance Gentleman-artist. These works were clearly influenced by two great half-length portraits from the Renaissance that were in Amsterdam collections: Raphael's Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione and Titian's Portrait of a Man (Ariosto). Significantly, Castiglione was the author of the Book of the Courtier first published in 1528. In this courtesy book, Castiglione lays out the intellectual, ethical, and cultural foundations for the formation of the proper courtier. Castiglione articulates the self-fashioning of the ideal gentleman-virtuoso. It is this ideal that Rembrandt emulates in these two portraits.

Both works demonstrate Rembrandt's awareness of the Italian Renaissance composition. Rembrandt employs the same stable, pyramidal composition with the figure seen from a three-quarters point of view. Going back to works like Leonardo's Mona Lisa the composition achieves a balance between stability and movement as the figures turn out toward the viewer. These figures thus actively look out towards the viewer.

Raphael, Baldasarre Castiglione, 1514-15.

Rembrandt's notes around the sketch say: "The Count Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael sold for 3,500 guilders. The entire estate of Luke van Nuffeelen fetched fl 59,456. Anno 1639.

Titian, Man with the Blue Sleeve, c. 1510 (possibly the Italian poet Ariosto)

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1661, London, Kenwood.

Gone in this portrait are the fancy clothes and trappings associated with his earlier portraits. Here Rembrandt represents himself in a plain cloak with a simple white cap. He also shows himself holding the "tools of his trade", the palette and brushes. On the very right hand side of the painting, the side of a canvas can be seen. It is notable in his early portraits Rembrandt does not show himself as an artist. The frontal pose of this figure has struck scholars as a parallel to conventional royal portraits like Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII. Rembrandt appears to construct himself as the master of his own domain, the workshop. It is significant that while Rembrandt shows himself holding the tools of the trade, he does not show himself actively painting. Much of the power of the painting comes from the emotional impact of the image. Rembrandt eyes do not look at us directly, but look off to the side. Like many of his images the eyes are veiled in shadow. What comes across is the intensity and power of his thought and personality which echoes the intellectual depth of the melancholic genius of the Renaissance artist.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1658, New York, The Frick Collection.

Like the Kenwood Self-Portrait, in the Frick portrait Rembrandt constructs himself as the Prince of his studio. The imposing, monumental frontal pose with gold tunic and cane held in his left hand construct his regal nature.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul, 1661.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1660. Paris, Louvre.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1668-69. Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1669, London, National Gallery.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait as the Prodigal Son with Saskia, Dresden.

Rembrandt, The Artist in the Studio, 1626-28, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.