Rembrandt: Etching of an old woman

 Rembrandt: Angel Whispering to Saint Mathew (1661). Detail. Photo digitally ehanced.


Art Prose Rhyme

Mushtaq Bhat


The Man & The Artist

Rembrandt_ selfportrait(etching)

Portrait of an old woman 1663  
Etching 43 x 41 mm.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

15 July 1606 - 4 October 1669 A.D.

The Man & The Artist

Mushtaq Bhat

digital manipulated photo of the painting of Rembrandt: Artist in Studio (1629)

An Artist Appraising His Work

Above Logo: Digital manipulated photoreproduction of the painting (c.1629) by Rembrandt:  An Artist in his Studio

The Rembrandtian Credo

The Prsentation.

Rembrandt:The Prsentation. Etching ()

The Presentation in the Temple 1639
Etching 216 x 290 mm.3

Although Rembrandt is a child of the baroque age, his art is in no way a reflection of the dominant stilistic mode of the era, the baroque Mannerism, nor for that matter that of the rather antagonistic school of Carracci of Bologna. No doubt indirectly influenced and in a way perfecting in an utterly unique Rembrandtesque manner, the work begun by Caravaggio and Velasquez, which was nothing less than robbing the classical heritage of its grandiose and pedantic flights of fancy, he would go many steps further and emerge as the first great voice of an completely new epoch, firmly entrenched in the primordial fertile soils of the Mercantile System. What a quantum spring from van Dyck and Rubens! Politically and socially akin to the new enlightened class of savants of natural sciences, with an almost the same neutrality and critical attitude to inherited beliefs and increasingly skeptical of the traditional forms of social stratification and their redundant legitimizing interpretations _ albeit without their disembodied eyes _ Rembrandt is the new self-confident artist, come of age and fully aware of his worth as a citizen and as, in the real sense of the term, a professional. This urbanity is not evident in any of his contemporaries, even less in the representatives of the more fashionable and slightly regressive schools of Classical Revival, that sprouted in France and elsewhere in the following decades. This modern urbanity would later mature in the hands of a artists like Vermeer. Emancipated from the consens and constraints of the royal Mäzens, the aristocratic specialists, the religious institutions and their equally fickle modes and fashions, Rembrandt seems to be seeking legitimation almost exclusively within his own universe, through his own interaction with the Zeitgeist and mother Nature, yet never shying away from any confrontation with the past. As ever and always he is seeking answers to universal questions, in no way confined to his era. And at the same he shows us a mastery of everything that was viably significant _ artistically, morally and technically, during his decade. Like a universal genius, his groping hands reach well behind and beyond the confines of his time and space. And in this respect he stands closer to da Vinci and Dürer, and is perhaps the last of the breed in Europe.

A new epoch and a new way of life, pregnant with dynamic potentialities, whose further development especially in the New World, the protestant regions of West Europe and England later, would favor the emergence of an universal, albeit still nor completed, suffrage for the mankind, and the growth of that special blend of Greek Thought and Jewish Pedagogic, so characteristic of modern democracies. Rembrandt is probably its first universal representative. Certainly he is its first artistic voice, and perhaps its most self-assured _ genteel and subtly almost sublimely vociferous at the same time! No wonder he appears almost eternally modern through the decades and centuries. No wonder either, that for a time he would even function as a leading hero of the new continental republicans, who had come of age some two centuries later.

Yet it's not the voice of a new snobby bourgeoisie ego but an already self-assured announcement of the coming of age of a new concept of individualism, stamped with Calvinistic ideals in European history. It has the same empathetic eye for the beggar and the civil population on and across the street, the neighbors and the wandering hawkers and musicians, as it has for the aristocracy in banquet halls, the mythological heroes in timeless spheres, the religious deities in spiritual dimensions, the warrior class with their earthly gleaming trappings and the new emerging breed of students and savants of natural sciences and their exotic paraphernalia, the future academicians. And above all it reveals a similarly reflective appraisal of one's own self, manifested in his rich palette of self-portraits. No doubt this is the result of an increased interaction between the classes and the emergence of a more fluid demarcations within some, that an unfettered free rational enquiry of the natural world, i.e., education, favored and for which the Protestantism (especially the Dutch version) offered a fertile ground. Later Vermeer would transform a housemaid to an exalted heroin on his canvas. What a step forward from the old heritage, where she was a small figure in a supporting cast of dozens or more!

But there is more here, a Rembrandtian credo, one might say. Yes a credo indeed. Rembrandts art reveals a great sensitiveness for the sanctity of the individual soul, irrespective of how that soul is displayed on the stage, whether well hidden behind elaborate ornamentations, the baroque theatricality or the prevalent dress-code or the lack thereof. It seems for Rembrandt life was a stage that he like no other before him has dramatized with a deep and sincere feelings for the actors, who had the honor to fill his canvasses and prints. Acutely observant but never detached, Rembrandt to put it succinctly, was one of the great voices of the European humanism.

Certain Marketing gimmicks, so ubiquitous in our own age, where the product and the presentation have attained equally important status, have been claimed by some to have been first introduced by Rembrandt. Some modern music pop bands may create some scandal or a minor traffic trespasses (publicity stunts) in order to make into the boulevard press. An artist today may capitalize on same receptive "Zeitgeist" by creating the most grotesque and bizarre and the classical-aesthetic contradicting and tormenting gizmo, bereft of all universally recognized and intrinsically felt associations of the average onlooker and even succeed thereby in evoking eulogies at Universities and Academies without ever having felt the need to study or grasp at all the great traditions of the past and the monumental achievements of the great stars of the civilizations. But they do not reveal at the same time, what Rembrandts art consistently does. A dedicated investigation of universal questions of mankind and an honest tackling of the answers offered by the great Masters. Comparing Rembrandt to them is same as comparing a modern poet, fetishlike and obsessively occupied with urban or metropolitan sexual problems of the wage worker with the great poet genius and universal representative of the human soul, Sir William Shakespeare! The former are either elite, provincial or metropolitan, showing allegiance to Media, the Auction Houses, the Banks of our age as good or as bad as any royal painter at the Courts or those producing conveyer belt products for the Duke and Duchess, whereas Rembrandt is seeking answers to more profounder questions, that might be truly termed as universal.
His "marketing gimmicks", like the etching of a woman with and without stove, or refurbishing his old etchings for resale with pregnant titles or arguably eye-catching amendments, are in no way an indication of any fetishistic conformation to market demands, the motives and themes are consistently his own, not from the public, the art dealer, the critics and the press nor or they just in tune with the Zeitgeist. Their horizon stretches far beyond a myopic measurable distance. His intense occupation with the Jews and Jewish heritage, his portrayal of Homer as the "Geist" behind Aristotle or as the shoulders, whereupon the latter stood, truly reveal a profound depth of mind and sensitiveness and an almost intuitively felt empathy (Rembrandt was no intellectual and probably never wrote in Latin) for the tangled up intricacies of the human soul in all of its varied manifestations, a mind and soul that can be claimed to be at par with those revealed to us by poets like Shakespeare.

A Minor Disputation.

Rembrandt(Etching): Christ Disputing.

Christ disputing  c.1652

A child of his age, no doubt. The Mäzens were a new class. No more the Church and the aristocracy only. A new breed of art buyers. No more just the altars and the royal residences. New localities of art display, ranging from wide-spread Galleries and Trading Houses to private middle class family adobes, shops and the taverns. In words of Gina Pischel4, pictures hung at eye level in your living room and that you could scrutinize with help of a lens. Now you had the merchants, the increasingly affluent middle class (not to have a Rembrandt print, was shame for many in the scene!) and of course the Galleries! This may have lead to the emergence of a new kind of self-confidence of the artist, since one now had a more varied palette of admirers and potential buyers, which probably contributed toward a more genuine independence from the norms of a select class. And Rembrandt did marry Saskia the cousin of his Art Dealer and business partner. Some have claimed it was a deliberate action of Rembrandt to ensure the success of his career. I will not go that far. For one thing, such reductionistic explanations, fashionable in certain schools of thought are almost always offered at the cost of exclusion of many others. Perhaps it was the result of a instinctively felt mutual empathy between the Art Dealer and the Artist, that inevitably would lead to a socially recognized form of engagement. Why should not there have existed a mutual recognition of and a genuine admiration for the talents of each other, that may have lead to familiarity, a wish for a socially cohesive bonding and an establishment of a business partnership and the subsequent pooling of talent? Or they might have even perceived or felt it as destiny. There might no doubt have also been, to some extent rationalizations of the familiar kind. Perhaps a mix up of all these facts. After all, is it not the way, we all function? And judging by the many portraits that Rembrandt made of the latter's cousin (his wife) it seems in no way a sign of anything but positive inclinations toward her. In fact her early death seems to have left a great impact on his spirits and a hole in his emotional life.

Rembrandt: Saskia sick in in bed with a nurse (c. 1640)

Saskia sick in bed with a nurse 2
c. 1640.
Drawing. 22,7 x 16,4 cm.
Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich.

No doubt it may seem that Rembrandt could afford to keep his independent artistically fiery spirit alight through out this successful period, but he remained true to his calling even when the circumstances changed. Yes in great adversity, that engulfed him after his going bankrupt, he appears to have consistently followed his inner voice.

A Major Reformation

A seeker of the essence behind the appearances till the end of his life, his works were initially, like most of his contemporaries influenced by the dominant ethno-centric European archaeology and ancient history, that was culturally biased and infested with bizarre legends and hardly to be distinguished from mythology, a far cry from the ethnography of the later periods. This is evident in his earlier works, wherein, only the Pharisee, the high-priests and the other characters, usually a cortically negative, epidermal dark and often hastily rendered supporting cast, appear to have oriental physiognomies. For all others, the Caucasian Dutch served as models.
Rembrandt lived in a street inhabited by rich Jews and gentile Merchants, amidst the Europe's largest community of the Jews. In fact the extant alternate name, Mokum for Amsterdam is Yiddish in origin and originally meant the Jerusalem of the West. The Jewish community would contribute significantly toward the growth of Amsterdam as a global player and a Metropol, that would play a major role on the international scene during the decades. Rembrandt must have, as deep sensitive soul felt a peculiar fascination for these people. Confronted constantly through history and his own religion with their contributions to world heritage, he must have opportunistically grabbed at the possibility of knowing them personally, in his backyard, so to say. It is therefore no surprise, the the singular union of poetry and prose, of mysticism and practical common sense, so striking in the Hebrew character, appealed powerfully to Rembrandt's imagination.5
Rembrandt: Jesus after a jewish model

Jesus (c. 1655)
probably rendered after a local jewish model
Wood. 25 x 20 cm.
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

His first hand acquaintance of the Jews in his neighborhood, some of whom seem to have achieved a great respectability and important status in the civil life of the city, and who were in no way "exotic" and especially his friendship with one of their most dedicated scholars, Menasseh ben Israel, would however lead to a very significant reformation in his artwork. From now on the Jewish physiognomy would replace the depiction of not only the prophets, the high priests and the Pharisee but even Jesus himself. This Rembrandt did not do in conformation to an emerging norm or a school of thought but at his own initiative. In this Rembrandt reflected one of his most important themes of his life, his own individual search, dissociated from trends and institutions. That way he does represent a great student of life, nature and culture, willing to learn even at an very advanced age and remaining open to new insights till the end of his life.

Digital manipulated photo of the self-portrait of Rembrandt() Digital Manipulated Photoreproduction of the self-portrait of Rembrandt ()
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Main Sources
Image sources, when not indicated otherwise : URL1
URL1 website Rembrandt from Jonathan Jansen.
2 Rembrandt.  Dargestellt von Christian Tümpel; Rowohlts Velag GmbH. 1977.
3 Windsor. Fine Art
4 Gina Pischel, 1966 Milan.
Große Kunstgeschicte der Welt. German Edition 1983; S¨dswest Verlag, Munich. pp. 515.
5 Estelle M. Hurrl. Rembrandt 1899, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Cambridge.
- electronic version available as a free download at: The Project Gutenberg. Click below.
    EBook of Rembrandt, by Estelle M. Hurll >>

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And The Rembrandtesque Expressions
Rembrandt: Descent from the cross (etching, 1633)

The Descent from the Cross
Etching 527x410 mm.

Rembrandt: Descent from the cross (etching, 1633_detail)

Detail of the above etching

Rembrandt: Descent from the cross (Oil on Wood, c.1633)

The Descent from the Cross
Wood 89,4 x 65,2 cm.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Jesus and The Woman accused of Adultery (1643)

Jesus and The Woman accused of Adultery
Wood 83,8 x 65,4 cm.
National Gallery, London

Rembrandt: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1631)

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple 1631
Wood 25 5/8 x 18 7/8 in.
Mauritshuis, The Hague

Rembrandt: The Saints Peter & Paul Discussing  1631)

Saints Peter & Paul Discussing 1631
Wood 71 x 58,5 cm.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

Rembrandt: Moses (1659)

Moses & The Ten Commandments 1659
Gem¨ldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin

Rembrandt: Angel Whispering to Saint Mathew (1661)

Angel Whispering to Saint Mathew 1661
Canvas 96 x 81 cm.
The Louvre, Paris.

Rembrandt: Aristotles (1653)

Aristotles in front of the bust of Homer. 1653
Canvas. 143,5 x 136,5 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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