Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Paintings by Rembrandt

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Portrait of a Bearded Man in a Red Doublet, 1633
Oil on panel, 25 x 20 in.
Private Collection, New York

This painting of 1633 attests to youthful Rembrandt’s famous ability to bring his sitters vividly to life and demonstrates the style that made him the most-sought-after portraitist of his day in Amsterdam. The man’s lifelike expression is complemented by his bright red doublet, an unusually colorful outfit, very different from the somber black attire usually worn by Rembrandt’s patrons. The sitter’s identity has not yet been discovered, but the doublet and braid fastenings had military associations and it has been speculated that he might have been foreign soldier residing in the year of its commission in The Hague.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658 Oil on canvas, 42 ¼ x 34 ¼ in.
Courtesy Otto Naumann, Ltd.

In contrast The Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo offers an excellent example of Rembrandt’s later, more painterly and tenebrous style. It depicts a young bearded man in his prime, posed three-quarter length and frontally, his hands on his hips and his steady gaze meeting the viewer’s with confidence bordering on defiance. It was painted in the year that Rembrandt was forced to vacate his house and art collection following his declaration of bankruptcy in 1656. The subject’s identity once again is unknown. Indeed, notwithstanding his individualized features, it is not even certain that the painting is a portrait. However, by the early nineteenth century it was called a “Portrait of a Dutch Admiral.” While his brown doublet, sash and beret were not elements of everyday attire in the seventeenth century, the subject’s pose, with arms akimbo, also had military and specifically nautical associations, suggesting that he may have been a member of the burgeoning maritime community in Amsterdam. Whoever the sitter is, the painting is a fine example of Rembrandt’s bold late manner, a style which increasingly fell out of favor with the rise of international Classicism in the Netherlands.