Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bite 85: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn - Self Portrait, 1658

Self Portrait, 1658, Frick Collection
In the final of many self portraits made throughout his career Rembrandt presents himself, not at work, but in the luxurious garb befitting a truly great artist.

The largest of his self portraits, it stops you in your tracks, his hands, face and golden coat glowing ethereally. The trials he has faced can seen in his eyes as Rembrandt confronts the viewer, as well as himself.

Kenneth Clark regarded it the "calmest and grandest of all his portraits." On its exhibition in 1909 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art it was commented: "It is the head of an old lion at bay, worn and melancholy, yet conscious of his strength, determined and a little defiant."

It is the raw, honest portrayal of a man near the end of his life, by perhaps the greatest self portraitist to have ever lived.