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Rembrant Van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn is remembered as one of the best painters in history. His works are admired and treasured the world over. In his painting Self-Portrait Leaning on a Sill Rembrandt shows the critical elements of his style as well as provides hints into his own character at the time the painting was created.

Rembrandt (1606-69) was born in Leiden, Holland. After gaining recognition and success, he moved to Amsterdam. Throughout his career, Rembrandt worked in large part for Protestant patrons. Stylistically, Rembrandt fell into the category of the Baroque painters.

Rembrant Van Rijn

Although Rembrandt is well known for his landscapes and portraits of others, he also completed an estimated 50 to 60 self-portraits. His painting, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Sill (aged thirty-four), painted in 1940, is an excellent example of how he viewed himself during this particular period of his life. In this painting Rembrandt appears very prosperous and self-confident. His clothes, made of velvet and fur, add to his self-importance, as does his gaze as he looks out at the rest of the world.

The painting itself is oil on canvas and measures 1.02 x 0.8m. To create character, Rembrandt used facial shading. The use of light brings out some facial features and adds depth and personality to the face. He provided a glimpse into the figure’s inner character by the lifelike creation of the eyes (Adams, 1997). The image created is of a man who is self-assured about his place in the world. The painting lacks bright, vivid colors and instead relies on the contrast between light and dark to lend personality and life his character. Additionally, the use of contrasts in the painting lends a dramatic quality to the work.

Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait of 1640 reflects the mood and the period in which it was painted. For instance, the richly embroidered shirt is old-fashioned in nature. His face is serious with no apparent attempt at sensational appeal to the spectator. The painting is the image of one desiring to be admired more for quality than for visual appeal and beauty. It represents stability, calm and firmness rather than action and emotion.

The stone sill echoes the image of Rembrandt as somewhat detached. The sill separates the image in the painting as it would separate the real person in life. In arrangement the figure is not close to the front plane but rather receded behind this stone sill. From the viewers vantage point the image resembles that of a pyramid, with the sill serving as the shapes base. The painting ignores the curvilinear silhouettes popular in the 1630s in favor of lines that emphasize the horizontal.

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