Harmenszoon Van Rijn Rembrandt (1606-1669)
The future great artist Rembrandt was born July 15, 1606 in the fertile era of prosperity of all areas of spiritual culture in Holland. This is the time when national literature, architecture, painting and theater developed especially rapidly. But not one of the areas of art, in this "golden age", has created as many cultural values recognized at the world level as painting.
Rembrandt, picture gallery
The visual art of Holland matured during the years of revolution, the liberation struggle and the post-revolutionary upsurge. Obviously, this is why national painting has such a pronounced democratic character. Holland artists, already in the 17th century, had a rare opportunity to openly express their ideas and attitude to the surrounding reality. Their works are distinguished by bold realism in relation to the image of man and his life.
All of Rembrandt’s work is saturated with the highest embodiment of Dutch realism, which was unusually close to the soul of the artist himself. His works are striking in the breadth of thematic coverage, which is very rare in the history of world art.
Earlier, Rembrandt’s childhood passed in the city of Leiden (Netherlands), where his father held a mill on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Rhine. The prefix “Van Rhine” itself is the generic nickname of the painter, literally meaning “which is from the Rhine”.
After graduating from the Latin gymnasium, in 1620, the boy spent about a year at the University of Leiden. It was there that his drawing abilities first appeared. The young artist began to study with the local painter Jacob van Swannenbürch. But he soon moved to Amsterdam, where he found a more eminent teacher, Peter Lastman (1583-1633). Rembrandt’s new mentor was a representative of a group of Dutch artists who were exclusively engaged in portraying antique and biblical subjects.
Lastman’s historical paintings captivated the audience with colorful details of mise-en-scenes from the life of ancient peoples. His individual style was the image of strong emotions on the faces of the characters. Because of this, despite the undoubted skill of execution and the ability to create realistic details, all of his paintings are distinguished by far-fetched and theatrical even real events. Nevertheless, many of the characteristic features of Lastman’s painting significantly influenced the development of Rembrandt’s style, despite the fact that he spent only about six months in his workshop.
At the age of nineteen, Rembrandt returned to his native Leiden. Here he begins to practice the art of painting himself. All the paintings of the “Leiden” period are neat, with sharp transitions of color and light and a slightly strict dry style of writing, which gives an inexperienced beginner artist.
From the very beginning, Rembrandt was attracted to the portrait genre. There were few orders, so the artist tirelessly practiced on himself, his relatives and loved ones. At this time, he writes many self-portraits, portraying himself with various facial expressions: embarrassed, smiling, laughing, annoyed. So Rembrandt began to improve his ability to realistic transfer of the psychological states of his heroes. Almost all early self-portraits are superficial, and even rude, due to the youth and inexperience of the artist.
But, the first experiments of the painter in the field of printed graphics, also related to the Leiden period, are much more interesting. Data on who Rembrandt studied the art of etching, is not preserved. However, his early engravings are already distinguished by great mastery of execution, as well as a deep understanding of the drawing.
Judging by the engravings of Rembrandt, he preferred to choose characters for his works from the very bottom of Dutch society. His etchings dedicated to the poor, crippled and vagabonds were so skillful that they drew public attention to his work. Rembrandt had more orders, students began to come to him, the artist began to predict a great future.
At first, the painter signed his works with a monogram of his own work “RHL” – Rembrand Harmen (father’s name) Leiden (hometown). However, after moving to Amsterdam in 1631, he began to sign with the same name, like the great masters Raphael and Titsiau.
After moving to Amsterdam, the painter began one of the most successful periods in his work and life. Almost immediately, he got a very profitable order from the guild of surgeons. In January 1632, Rembrandt attended a lecture by the outstanding physician Nicholas Peters, during which the audience witnessed the autopsy of the thief. Doctors had the right to open the corpses of those criminals who were sentenced to death. This happened extremely rarely, so it was always a real event. This moment was captured by the artist in his famous painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp” (1632, Mauritshuis, The Hague).
In the process of creating this work, the author acts as a deep psychologist who managed to subtly notice and convey a complex picture of personal relationships. A group of students – young surgeons, on the canvas is dressed in holiday costumes. For Holland, a variation of the portrait depicting a man at his favorite job was very common. Such a picture required widespread use of household items – the inclusion in the plot of the surrounding elements that characterize the life of the portrait. The most difficult task for the artist was to maintain the predominance of the portrait image over the everyday one, Rembrandt coped with this task brilliantly.
In the views of the characters of the picture – admiration for the lecture, which demonstrated surprisingly deep knowledge of the lecturer. The surgeons who came were tense, comparing the anatomy of an open hand with what is depicted in a large book lying at his feet. Against this background, the doctor himself looks very reserved. As befits a true professional, the doctor does not experience any fear, nor shyness, nor embarrassment. Dr. Tulp is confident, calm, not afraid of reality. Even the doctor’s servant, taking a cloak from a visiting surgeon in the background of the picture, is not at all afraid of the sight.
The painting helped Rembrandt gain recognition from the Amsterdam public. He began to receive many orders for portraits of noble gentlemen, whom he had created over fifty in the first two years. The artist’s popularity grew along with his well-being.
Rembrandt was a passionate collector. He spent most of the money earned on the purchase of works of art, antique costumes and antiques. During the inventory of his property, among the works of his extensive collection were paintings by Rubens, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Van Dyck, Peter Brueghel and other masters.
Success and personal happiness
In just two years of his life in Amsterdam, Rembrandt is getting married. The painter’s wife was the daughter of wealthy patricians Saskia van Eilenborch. The artist was very fond of his wife and often created her portraits in a variety of ways: in the usual costume of a Dutch burgher, or in clothes that transformed her into the heroine of biblical or ancient mythology.
In 1634, Rembrandt painted his painting Flora (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), in which Saskia appears as the goddess of all the flora of Flora. The woman is pregnant, her head is decorated with a wreath in which tulips are clearly visible, indicating her Dutch origin. Saskia, with a twig in her hands, resembles a fairy-tale princess walking in the forest. It is amazing how skillfully the fabric of her clothes was painted, causing a desire to touch the canvas in order to feel the tenderness of the satin. The picture, despite the cold palette, makes a surprisingly warm impression. The image of young Saskia is very moving and very different from the regal woman, whom she appears before us in a picture painted a year later.
The work "Sofonisba takes the cup of poison" (1634, Prado Museum, Madrid) was one of the earliest paintings on a historical theme. The woman in the picture is very similar to Saskia. The plot of the picture tells of Sofonisbe, daughter of the Carthaginian commander, who lived during the fierce war between Rome and Carthage. Her father passes her off as King Sifax, who was killed in the battle with Masiniss, who, in turn, wanted to take the queen as his wife. But, the Romans forbid this marriage, and then Masinis sends a bowl of poison Sofonisbe, drunk by the queen without hesitation.
The canvas "Self-portrait with Saskia on her knees" (1635-1636, Picture Gallery, Dresden) shows us the artist and his wife, glowing with happiness. Rembrandt in the image of the groom, dressed in an elegant suit, holds Saskia on her lap, also dressed in an old dress, bought by the artist from an antique dealer. The artist radiates fun transmitted to the viewer. With one hand he gently holds the companion by the waist, with the other he raises a luxurious glass, as if offering the viewer a drink for their family happiness, sharing the holiday of his soul. In all the work one can feel the tenderness and love of the painter for his wife.
Religion and Mythology
At the turn of the 16-17th centuries, Rembrandt was fascinated by historical painting, which, according to the traditions of that time, included the mythological stories of antiquity, as well as biblical subjects. Despite the fact that in many of the painter’s works the influence of his teacher Lastman is clearly traced, his canvases significantly stood out against the general background of the flourishing Dutch painting.
The fact is that Rembrandt superbly managed a deeply individual interpretation of each image. Despite the similarity of color, compositional techniques and costumes of his heroes with the paintings of Lastman, the artist managed to develop his own unique style, based on the desire to convey the true feelings of the person as they could be in reality. Remaining within the framework of traditional mythological and biblical subjects, Rembandt’s paintings are devoid of far-fetchedness and theatricality.
In the canvases of the historical series, the talent of Rembrandt, the narrator, his desire to show the inconsistency and duality of human nature, in which, according to the master, are the motives of any act, is unusually vividly revealed.
A great influence on the work of the painter was made by the philosophy of Pascal, who believed that "a person – something beautiful, preserving the truth in himself, on the one hand, on the other hand, is a vessel of uncertainty and errors that contradicts himself."
The painting “Descent from the Cross” (1634, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) was one of a series of paintings on the subject of Christ’s passages commissioned by Prince Frederick Hendrick of Orange of Rembrandt. On the canvas we see how at night relatives and relatives take off the body of the crucified Jesus from the cross. A powerful play of chiaroscuro creates a very strong dramatic effect. The faces of the characters are excited and pale. The only source of light tears out from the twilight the figure of the tormented Christ. The origin of the light is not clear – either it comes from somewhere above, or comes from the Lord himself. Virgin Mary is depicted as a simple woman. The face of the Mother of God is also illuminated. Her figure is located on the right, on either side of her are people who help Mary to stay on her feet, her condition speaks of the deepest grief. A luxurious fabric is spread on the earth, on which the body of Christ is now laid.
Rembrandt intentionally portrayed all the participants in this action as simple people, to emphasize that the death of the Son of God is a universal grief. This painting, one of five commissioned by the prince, the artist later repeated, but on a larger scale.
The theme of the murder and resurrection of Christ continues in the canvas "The Disbelief of St. Thomas" (1634, A. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow). Here is an episode where the risen Jesus appears to the apostles and shows wounds. The disciples of Christ tell of the miracle of Thomas, who, in disbelief, declares: "If I do not see the wounds from the nails on my hands and put my finger in the wounds from the nails, and I do not put my hands in His ribs, I will not believe it." A few days later, Jesus again appears to the apostles, with whom Thomas was. Christ approached him and offered to fulfill what Thomas demanded as evidence – to put his fingers in the wounds. Frightened Thomas fulfills the request and recognizes the Lord with shame.
The picture is painted in dark colors, and only the central part of the composition is illuminated by the bright light emitted by the figure of Jesus. The unusual play of light and shadow inherent in the master’s canvases conveys the internal dynamics of the episode, its exciting character.
The next work, dedicated to the biblical plot, was the painting “Belshazzar’s Pier” (1635, National Gallery, London). The picture shows a classic story related to the rule and death of Belshazzar – the last king of Babylon, guilty of the fall of Babylon (according to the Book of the Prophet Daniel).
When Babylon was besieged, it kept a sufficient amount of food stocks, with which residents could not worry about food for a long time. But the king of Babylon, Belshazzar unexpectedly decides to arrange a luxurious feast on a completely insignificant occasion, inviting him to almost a thousand nobles and courtiers. The picture is the culmination of history, when in the midst of a feast behind the king’s back appears a hand writing certain words. The king, whose figure is located in the center of the composition and occupies almost all of its space, turns around to understand what is happening. To his right, as wine from a precious vessel tilts onto itself, one of the feasting ladies crouched in fear.
According to the Gospel, the court sages of King Belshazzar could not read the magical inscription. Then the Babylonian ruler invites the prophet Daniel, who deciphered the letters. The text on the wall of the palace read: “God has calculated your kingdom and put an end to it. You are weighed, and your weight is not great. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Persians and the Medes. ” According to the biblical account, that night, the king of the Chaldean Belshazzar was killed.
The painting “The Sacrifice of Abraham” (1635, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), continued a series of plots from the holy book. The canvas is shrouded in twilight, only three fragments are pulled out by the light: the body of young Isaac with his hands tied behind his back, waiting to bend over, a fatal blow; the face of Abraham, pale from grief and horror, realizing that he was about to, at the behest of God, slaughter his own son; and the figure of an angel, as if bursting into a composition of clouds, to save the heroes from the horror that is happening.
Throughout his work, in the image of a person, Rembrandt was attracted by spectacular in his expression feelings of fear, pain, a state of joy, grief, resentment, surprise – everything that is visible with the naked eye, and not internal experiences hidden deep inside.
This is especially noticeable in large, multi-figured works, such as, for example, the painting “Blinding Samson” (1636, Shtedelevsky Art Institute, Frankfurt). The canvas is based on one of the dramatic episodes of biblical legends.
The mighty Samson falls into the hands of enemies, because of the betrayal of his beloved – the beautiful and treacherous Delilah, who betrayed Samson for a reward. The attackers blind him, plunging daggers into his eyes. The heroic body of Samson, highlighted by a shining bright light, was bent with pain. The dynamic composition of the work is saturated with color contrasts of darkness and bright light emitted by the figure of a strong man, creating a feeling of anxiety and horror. Around everything mixed up in a fierce struggle, and in the background is seen the rapidly running away Delilah.
According to recent studies, another painting by the master, Danae, is closely connected with the painting "Blind Samson". Analysis of the canvases showed an absolutely identical structure, perhaps both of them were cut off from one piece. The works are connected not only with the base and size, but also with the compositional construction, which gives the works monumentality due to the fact that the figures on them are depicted in full growth. There is also a version that the artist gifted both of these works to Konstantin Heitens – Secretary of Prince Frederick Hendrick, thanks to whom Rembrandt had many orders.
This conjecture is also confirmed by the artist’s letters in which he informs Hatens that he completed two paintings that, as a token of gratitude, I would like to present to him. Their plot is not indicated, but most likely, the author had in mind these works.
Such thorough studies of the canvas “Danae” (1636, the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) are not accidental, this painting has become one of the master’s best creations, and besides this, also a hymn to his love for Saskia. Rembrandt dated the canvas in 1636, but experts in his work attribute the work to a later period. This is due to the fact that for the early period of the master’s work, the strength and depth with which this work was written were not yet characteristic. Thorough x-ray studies were carried out in the laboratories of the State Hermitage Museum that dispelled all doubts: the canvas was indeed written in the 1630s, however, in the following decades it underwent significant authoring.
The composition of the canvas is based on the plot of an ancient Greek myth. The king of Argos, father of Danai, imprisoned his daughter in a tower. But the supreme god Zeus, in love with Danae, nevertheless penetrated her, assuming the guise of a golden rain. With a mixed sense of timidity and joy (the duality of human nature), Danae seeks to meet the golden radiance. Rembrandt did not depict the perfect female body in the picture, as was customary among other artists. His Danae is far from the ideals of perfect beauty, but pay attention to her face, how much hope, inspiration, he is full of love and faith. Her pose is unusually feminine, and her gestures are filled with awe.
Continuing the topic of active discussions over the picture, it should be noted that in the person of Danai there is little similarity with the well-known appearance of Saskia. Conducted fluoroscopy resolved this riddle. The fact is that the canvas was not intended for sale, for a long time it was stored in the artist’s personal workshop, up to his complete bankruptcy, after which all his things were seized and sold out.
Rembrandt constantly returned to his beloved work, rewriting it in accordance with a new level of professional pictorial vision or depending on the state of mind and mood. Rewriting the facial features of Danai, he either gave him the characteristic features of Gertieu Dirks, the maidservant who lived in his house after the death of his wife, or gave the resemblance to Hendrikyo Stoffels. As a result, the face of the heroine is a combination of features close to the artist women. But the resemblance to Saskia, his first love, is nevertheless much clearer.
The fate of the picture was not simple, and after the death of Rembrandt. After the sale of the artist’s property, she changed a number of private owners, until 1772, when she was bought by Catherine II. Subsequently, she was placed in the hall of the State Hermitage, where she was attacked by a maniac in 1985, who inflicted two knife blows on the canvas and doused it with acid. Fortunately, the restorers still saved the masterpiece, saving it for the audience.
During the early period of his work, Rembrandt practically did not pay attention to the landscape. Only after years, under the heavy oppression of life circumstances, did the artist turn his eyes to nature and the comfort that it can give to man. However, in 1638, the painter creates a beautiful painting “Landscape with a stone bridge” (Ricksmuseum, Amsterdam). The canvas is filled with the struggle of light and shadow, the emotionality of composition and coloristic decision, and the overall dynamics.
As if squeezing through thick clouds, a stream of bright sunlight streams into two trees depicted in the central part of the picture. Everything else – people in the boat, hurrying home frightened by the beginning of a thunderstorm, the bridge over the river is sunken in twilight. In the only fragment of the plot illuminated by the sun, the outlines of a rickety old fence, leaves and a person passing by are visible.
Sadly, the time of fame and material prosperity for Rembrandt did not last long. The work of the great master was very different from the work of fashionable Dutch artists. And as you know, it is fashion that dictates its tastes to the bourgeoisie, which at that time was the largest and most successful class in Holland. Rembrandt did not want to indulge in any fashionable trends; he clearly saw his path in art, filled with deeply individual traits. The main theme of the artist’s creativity has always been man, his outer life and hidden desires, a life without fantasies and far-fetched, as it is.
The realistic style of the artist’s work confused contemporaries with his bare truth. This led to an inevitable conflict between the master and bourgeois society. The first major clash between Rembrandt and public opinion occurred due to a large order for a group portrait of an Amsterdam rifle company, led by Lieutenant Willem van Reitenberg and Captain Frans Bunning Kok, over which the artist worked for about two years.
The large-scale work “The performance of the shooters of the company Captain Frans Bunning Cock” (or “The Night Watch”, Ricksmuseum, Amsterdam), completed by the master in 1642, depicts a memorable historical event, presumably, the participation of Amsterdam shooters in the ceremonial meeting of the French Queen Maria de Medici in 1639.
The painting depicts Captain Kok’s company, which emerges from a dark space into a foreground filled with bright light. Each character is busy with his grandfather, it creates the impression that the episode was snatched by chance. The arrows in the picture clean and dismantle their peaks, someone gives orders, actively gesturing, the standard bearer unfolds a colorful cloth. On the right side of the picture is an elderly man knocking out a drum roll, a dog barks near his feet. These diverse actions, creating a slight sense of chaos, filled with noise and dynamics, leave a very lively impression.
The overall color scheme of the canvas is rather dark, diluted with only two bright yellow spots: in the center on the right – the figure of a short man – Lieutenant Willem van Reitenberg, and on the right – a little girl in a yellow dress. The arrows are interspersed with passers-by, which gives the impression of some confusion. Only Captain Kok, leaning on his cane, is absolutely calmly talking to someone.
Rembrandt’s idea to portray a group of people united by a single impulse of civic feelings, alas, remained incomprehensible and not accepted by Amsterdam society. The shooters who paid for the order to get on the canvas, were unhappy that there are completely strangers in the picture. And even more they were outraged that the faces of some customers were obscured by other figures.
This picture was a turning point in the life of the artist. While Rembrandt wrote the painting, his beloved wife Saskia, who was only thirty years old, died of tuberculosis. Perhaps this event also influenced the artist, depicting on the canvas a little girl whose face is somewhat reminiscent of the painter’s young wife.
A large and controversial public outcry regarding the Night Watch has undermined Rembrandt’s popularity, which has since only begun to decline. The number of orders decreased, the students left. In the life of the master came a very difficult period.
Perplexed and frustrated, Rembrandt began to seek solitude and comfort in nature. As a result, the master was very interested in the landscape, which he did not attach any importance to before. The state of mind of the painter can be assessed by the types that he chose for his paintings – these were not spectacular views at all, but quiet, modest, secluded corners.
In addition to painting, engravings and drawings by a master with no less talent than his paintings can occupy a significant place in Rembrandt’s vast heritage. The artist created etchings in the technique of etching. The essence of the technique is to scratch a drawing with a needle on a metal board coated with varnish, which is finally treated with acids. Then, the varnish from the board is removed and the lines scorched on the metal with acid are filled with paint. After that, fingerprints are made from the board on wet paper under the press. Both the engraving method and the resulting print are called etching. In total, the master created about three hundred etchings etching, belonging to the greatest world achievements in the field of graphics. Also, about one and a half thousand drawings of the artist have survived to our time.
An example of Rembrandt’s magnificent graphics is his vivid symbolic etching “Three Trees” (1643, collection by J. de Bruyne). On the left side of the engraving, numerous vertical lines are drawn, creating the impression of rain pouring in swift jets. The right and central part of the etching is not mottled with strokes, from which the sky and the entire space of the composition seem radiant, spacious, open. So the artist depicted the symbolic struggle and the inevitable victory of light over darkness. Purified and resurrected nature creates a life-affirming and optimistic attitude. Three trees, towering on the right side of the composition, seem to be the axis of this world, the life-giving principle – so fully and clearly embodied in them all that is around: in the thick trunks – the power of the patient earth; in the flutter of leaves on the branches – the free pursuit of air.
Despite his fascination with engraving, Rembrandt never stopped perfecting his painting style. In the 40s, his visual techniques became even more diverse, the compositional structure was bolder, the color was richer and more temperamental, bright tones of red, brown, and golden colors prevailed in him. The prevailing themes are still biblical and gospel stories, revealing simple human qualities: maternal and conjugal love, suffering, mercy, kindness. An example is the painting “The Holy Family and Angels” (1645, the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), it is saturated with such amazing tenderness, love, in which the divine and earthly are interwoven.
The virgin Mary who was reading the book is interrupted in order to straighten the cover on the Baby, to close Him from an extremely bright light. The gesture of the Mother of God is filled with endless love and care. Jesus sleeps sweetly, his face, as always, illuminated by divine radiance. In the background of the picture is Mary’s husband. This episode from the life of a young family might seem trite, if not for the angels soaring in the sky.
In 1647, Rembandt created a dramatic picture with a pronounced eroticism “Susanna and the Elders” (State Museum, Berlin). Susanna is heading to the pool located in her garden, suddenly two old men come out of the shelter, who begin to persuade the girl to share a bed with them. They threaten Susanna that otherwise would be a false testimony that Susanna had committed adultery with another man. The girl categorically refuses. Frightened, she tries to cover her nakedness with a veil, but one of the villains breaks him, continuing to persuade her persistently. The red shoes left by Susanna near the pool are obviously a symbol of the eroticism of Dutch art of the 17th century.
Another piece on the biblical story is the painting “Dinner at Emmaus” (Louvre Museum, Paris), written by the master in 1648. The plot of the picture is selected classic – the meeting of the risen Christ with the disciples. But in Rembrandt’s version, the canvas carries a deep psychological meaning. Jesus sits in the center of the table in a tavern bathed in warm light, His gaze is calm and focused. We practically do not see the faces of the apostles accompanying Christ – one of them will turn my back, the second practically will not be distinguished. But the artist paints in detail the face of the waiter – a young man serving a meal to guests. The boy is meek, in all his pose care and reverence for the dear Guest. So the artist emphasizes that for an casual person, meeting with Christ is much more important than for those who knew him during his life, because the Lord chooses his followers from any.
The unconditional love of humanity is also saturated with the work “Christ Healing the Rich” (1649, collection of J. de Bruyne), which has a second title – “A sheet of a hundred guilders”. Here we see Christ standing in an abandoned room drowning in twilight. He is surrounded by many outsiders – old people, children, beggars, cripples. The slightly shaded faces of the heroes reflect pain, doubt, need, faith. The master perfectly transmitted the play of light and shadow. Etching was popular, information was preserved that its prints were sold at a very good price.
In 1653, Rembrandt, fulfilling the order of the wealthy collector A. Ruffo, created the painting "Aristotle in front of the bust of Homer" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The painting stood out sharply against the general background of pictorial art in Holland. Artists of that time, in accordance with fashion, wrote in light colors, light, smooth, smooth, almost transparent strokes. Therefore, the work of the master, who loved rich colors, rich texture, color contrasts, was poorly perceived by the public. Not wanting to change his individual style and having lost support and demand, the painter lived on the brink of ruin.
In addition to creative lack of demand, Rembrandt had many problems in his personal life. After the death of his wife, the artist became interested in the nanny of his young son Titus – Gertieu Dirks, this relationship ended in a big scandal, after which Gertieu left the painter’s house forever.
After a while, Rembrandt was again in the center of public indignation. In 1649, the artist became interested in the twenty-five-year-old servant Hendrikie Stoffels, who lived in his house. The painter was in no hurry to legitimize their relationship, so as not to lose the right to dispose of the inheritance of the deceased wife, which he wanted to save for the son of Titus. In response, the church council of Amsterdam excommunicated Hendrickier from the evening communion, demanding an end to the shameful extramarital affair. But the woman did not abandon Rembrandt and even bore him a daughter, Cornelia.
The artist dedicated several of his canvases to his new lover, including: “Portrait of Hendrikyo Stoffels” and “Young Woman Bathing in a Creek”.
In the painting “A Young Woman Bathing in a Stream” (1654, National Gallery, London), the heroine is depicted in a light dress, freely falling from her shoulders. She cautiously enters the river, lifting the hem of her dress above her knees. The exposed parts of her body were painted with great skill. A quiet smile full of tenderness plays on the young woman’s face. Hendrikyo looks as if he does not suspect that he is a model for his own spouse at this moment. She is not tense, but she is not taken by surprise. Facial features are calm and relaxed.
In the same 1654, Rembrandt painted the painting “Bathsheba with a Letter from King David” (Louvre Museum, Paris), which is considered one of the most beautiful paintings of the artist. The work is based on a plot from the Old Testament, which tells how once the ruler of Israel David saw a bathing girl from the roof of his palace: “And he saw a naked woman from the roof; and that woman was unusually beautiful. And David sent to find out who this woman is? And they answered him: This is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the spouse of Urni Hepyanin. And David sent servants to take her… ”(Second Book of Kingdoms). The plot chosen by Rembrandt tells us the story of a blood crime, adultery and divine anger. Bathsheba received a letter from David, she holds it in her hands, anticipating future guilt (the contradictory nature of man). The beautiful body of the heroine is literally saturated, flooded with light,in the composition and coloristic decision of the canvas, the inevitability of fate is felt.
Having no more flow of orders and having lost almost all students, the artist, as in his youth, began to write a lot of his relatives, neighbors, acquaintances. During this period, many canvases were created dedicated to the elderly, who had enough free time for hours of posing.
One of these works is The Portrait of an Old Man in Red (1652, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Old age in the interpretation of Rembrandt is by no means a withering of life, but a worthy conclusion. The appearance of the hero, with his face covered with numerous wrinkles, testifies to wisdom and rich experience. All events in life leave its mark: some are wounds on the heart, others are wrinkles on the face. The calm eyes of the old man reflect the eternal memory of everything that he saw in his life, that he experienced, what he was grieving about, and what he was happy about. And large calloused hands testify to how much he did before leaving.
The painting “Portrait of an Elderly Woman” (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), painted in the same year, shows us a heroine who humbly folded her hands in her lap. Her gaze shows fatigue from everyday worries.
Rembrandt liked to work thoughtfully, patiently and scrupulously, sometimes spending two to three months on his work, remodeling them endlessly, and again and again applying dense, pigment-rich paints. Rembrandt rubbed the paint into the ground, achieving the effect of deep space, sculpted reliefly the faces and hands of the heroes from a rather thick colorful mass. As one of the artist’s biographers Arnold Houbraken wrote: “some of his characters could literally be“ taken by the nose ”- the colors were so thickly applied.”
In 1656, Rembrandt was declared bankrupt, and two years later his house, like all his property, was sold for nothing. In 1660, the painter had to settle in a quarter of poor artists on the far outskirts of Amsterdam. Only the matured son Titus, who opened his own business selling art, saved from starvation death. Rembrandt and his new wife helped him as best they could.
Rembrandt’s rare still lifes, obviously, belonged to periods of his gloomy meditations, since practically all of them clearly feature the theme of the sad doom of the plant and animal world, in which the artist saw associations with human life.
The canvas “Butthed carcass of a carcass” (1655, Louvre Museum, Paris) serves as an excellent example of such a sad still life. The picture is filled with dead silence; there is not even a hint of life or dynamics in it. In an empty room, a cut bull carcass is suspended from the ceiling. Perhaps even yesterday this animal, unsuspecting about anything, grazed in a green meadow, and even today it is irretrievably deprived of life. All life on earth has its own term, which will come sooner or later.
In the same period, the painting “The Polish Horseman” was created (1655, Frick’s collection, New York). The figure of the rider, like the picture itself, caused a lot of controversy regarding, including the authorship of the work. The young man’s clothes, a hat trimmed with fur, and a caftan give him a certain theatricality, which was not characteristic of Rembrandt’s picturesque manner. The costume looks more like an oriental one and has nothing to do with Polish. Then where does this name come from? Apparently, the work was subsequently acquired by the Poles. But there is one “but”: in 1654 in Amsterdam the pamphlet “The Polish Horseman” was published, defending a sect, to which, according to numerous testimonies, the artist adjoined. The horse is depicted very clumsily, which does not fit in any way so that Rembrandt himself could write the animal like that.
In the strict composition “The Blessing of Jacob” (full name – “Jacob blesses the sons of Joseph Manasseh and Ephraim”, 1656, Art Gallery, Kassel) a solemn event is presented – blessed by the old man Jacob of forks. The canvas is painted in the style characteristic of Rembrandt – wide bold brush strokes, bright rich colors. The image of Jacob is full of greatness and dignity. Raising himself slightly on the bed, with a light gesture, he touches the head of his granddaughter. Both children in trembling delight subsided near the bed. Next to the patriarch is his wife, watching the scene with awe. The red velvet bedspread in the foreground unusually enlivens the canvas and brings a touch of solemnity and significance to the moment.
Late period of creativity
Having lost his house, property, his rich collection of paintings of world painting, Rembrandt wrote close and dear to his heart people – his son and Hendrikyo, helping and supporting him in difficult times.
One of the best works is the touching “Portrait of the Titus son reading” (circa 1656, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Before us is a living embodiment of youth, freshness and enthusiasm. The boy lives in his world of books, fantasies and amazing dreams. Sparkling sunbeams run across the face of the enthusiastically reading Titus, a smile playing on his lips. The boy’s facial features and red curls resemble his mother Saskia.
With a great sense of warmth and tenderness, the artist writes “Portrait of Hendrikyo Stoffels” (circa 1656, State Museum, Berlin). After the ruin, the painter could finally combine a legal marriage with his beloved. They married somewhere in the 1660s, because in numerous documents relating to this period, Hendrikyo is already referred to as the wife of Rembrandt.
In the portrait, a young, pretty woman is standing in home clothes near the window opening. Her gaze is directed forward, perhaps she is waiting for a loved one who is about to come. The canvas perfectly reflects the eternal female share: expectations, seeing off, meeting relatives and caring for them.
The canvas "The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel" (1661, the Louvre, Paris) shows us Matthew, in the interpretation of Rembrandt. Here he appears before us as a strong, courageous man with great life experience. Now, having grown old, he sits at a table and writes down the Gospel from words of an angel. The author’s philosophical message is clearly reflected in the work – a person, being born, passes through torment, he works, rejoices, suffers, his face becomes wrinkled, his body fades, and then death comes.
The way the Angel gently and carefully laid his hand on the elder’s shoulder reflects the artist’s thought, how important it is for all of us, at an advanced age, to feel near us a close, close person who will take care of us.
In 1660, Rembrandt finally received a new large order from the Amsterdam cloth mill. The artist writes a wonderful group portrait of the elders of the cloth workshop, called "Sindiki" (Amsterdam, Ricksmuseum). Characterizing his heroes, the painter focuses on their professional modesty and honesty. Five syndics and a servant (whose subordinate role is not felt at all in the canvas) look at the viewer with an attentive look. The faces of the heroes express honesty, decency, mind.
The French painter, art historian and writer Eugene Fromapagen, perfectly described Rembrandt’s ability to create unusual landscape compositions: “they are busy, although they don’t move, they talk, though they don’t move their lips. Nobody poses, everyone lives. ”
The strict black-and-white robes of the heroes are diluted with golden brown panels and a red tablecloth. On the table in front of them lies an open book – the shop Charter, which contains quality standards for the work of Amsterdam’s cloth-makers. The book is clearly included in the portrait at the request of customers of the canvas, however, the author managed to avoid a sense of far-fetched plot, full depth and content.
According to the surviving evidence, this picture, as the sensational Night Watch, caused a lot of discussion and debate. X-ray examination showed that the canvas underwent two major refining – in 1661 and 1662. The exact reasons why the work was redone did not reach us.
The fate of the great artist, over the years, became sadder. The demonstrative rejection of creativity, the constantly deteriorating financial situation and the death of two of the closest people (Hendrikyo died in 1663, and the artist lost his only son Titus in 1668), greatly affected the mental state of the artist. However, Rembrandt never once doubted the loyalty of his own path.
Despite the trials, loss of relatives, bankruptcy, a decrease in the number of students and the number of orders, an extremely poor financial situation, he continued to create, creating new masterpieces of truly realistic art.
Rembrandt’s later works are devoid of movement, noise, effects. The plots are calm, as if at that very moment, the artist snatched from the life of the heroes, the world around them froze, everything froze in anticipation of the fateful moment. Such paintings include the painting “David and Uriah” (circa 1665, the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), which depicts a man leaving the tent with a letter lying in his bosom. In the letter – the death sentence to David, who, knowing this in advance, looks into his eyes humbly and silently.
The greatest masterpieces created before death
The painting "The Jewish Bride" (circa 1666, by Ricksmuseum, Amsterdam) belongs to the master’s greatest masterpieces. The canvas caused a lot of controversy. Some believed that the picture depicts one of the biblical married couples: Rebekah and Isaac, Rachel and Jacob, or Ruth and Boaz; others saw here the artist’s son Titus and his bride Magdalena Val Leu, while others thought it was a portrait of contemporaries of the painter poet Miguel de Barrios and his wife.
It is universally recognized that no matter who the characters posing for Rembrandt are, this work is one of the most moving and unusual images of a married couple. Another great artist, Vincent Van Gogh described her this way: “This tenderness, behind which the pain lurks, is infinite, half-open, superhuman, and at the same time so natural.”
The heroes of the picture are dressed in orange-red and golden-yellow colors, bathed in a steady intense light, symbolizing the bright flame of their love. The whole pose of a man, carefully leaning towards his wife, gently hugging her shoulder, touching her chest with the other hand, speaks of endless care and tenderness for his woman, love and admiration for her. In turn, the girl anxiously touches his hand with her fingertips, she is calm for her fate, entrusted to her new husband.
The second greatest masterpiece of the master, written at the end of his life, was the painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1668, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). It was a brilliant conclusion to the creative path of Rembrandt.
If the “Jewish Bride” was a hymn to earthly, carnal love, then this picture tells about love of a higher order, full of repentance, acceptance, forgiveness, that all-consuming love that is possible only between a parent and his child. The color of the picture was chosen very muted, with a predominance of dark colors. Only the cloaks of the father, hugging his son, and standing on the right of the man, burn with fire. In the role of the prodigal son, Rembrandt saw himself all his life. Even the work "Self-portrait with Saskia on her lap" was originally called "Feast of the Prodigal Son." This beloved artist of the Gospel parable formed the basis of several drawings.
The composition of the picture is simple. In the foreground is a son kneeling, in the hope of his forgiveness, bowing his head to his father’s feet. Two do not look at each other, do not talk, do not see their eyes, but in their very poses there is enormous closeness and love that can only be between two native people who are infinitely dear to each other. The artist writes out the erased soles of his son’s old shoes so that we understand how long he has traveled before appearing before his exhausted father, who hugs him with his strained hands. The faces of the main characters surrounding the characters are also expressive, they are very expressive and full of reverence.
The greatest artist, Harmenszoon Van Rijn Rembrandt, who left the world a rich cultural heritage in the form of more than six hundred paintings, one and a half thousand drawings and three hundred etchings, died on October 4, 1669 in oblivion and poverty. He is buried in the Westerkerke cemetery in Amsterdam, next to those whom he loved most during his lifetime: Saskia, Hendrikyo and Titus.
All the vicissitudes of the creative and personal life of the great artist could not break his spirit and undermine his performance. Like the genius of the Renaissance, Titian, Rembrandt created almost until the last days of his life, relentlessly creating masterpieces, trying to penetrate the essence of human life and the soul of the man himself, who has been the main character of his amazing paintings all his life. The invaluable contribution that Rembrandt made to Dutch art, which never once changed the chosen creative path, made a real revolution in national and world art and set it on the path of continuous evolution.
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