The write-up below was an extra credit written in 2009 for my Art History class. There was a lecture on campus, I remember, on Public Spirit and Private Character in the Dutch Golden Age by Stephanie S. Dickey, Bader chair in the Northern Baroque Art at Queen’s University, in Kinston, ON. The write-up below is a compiled form of my notes from that lecture that I thought goes well right after the new discovery of an original Rembrandt in London. (see post: It’s a Rembrandt!!)
Hope you enjoy a little of the Dutch golden age! 🙂
Portraits are things that any of us carries at any moment. It might be a photo of a loved one, a picture ID, or a dollar bill. They show the temperament and mood of a person. In private settings we hang on a certain area portraits of loved ones (photos).
During renaissance in the North and South of Alps people used portraits also. In the 17th century it was possible for any culture or person with sufficient money to became portrayed in any way they wanted like in a sculpture or painting.
The Dutch portrayed communal values for group portraits. Also, they had half portraits of husband and wife. For example, a portrait of a simple bust is the painting of Rembrandt Anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp.
In the Cornelius Claesz Anslo, a protestant leader is a printed portrait that spread the form of political leaders (in this case) or religious leaders. During the 17th century the portraits of theologians were kept as sacred and were passed generation to generation.
The portraits were not produced for the mass market. Rembrandt portrayed his friends and artisans and art lovers with whom he associated, individuals he knew well. He was the most gifted print maker of his time. He did not recycle, customize or never produced the same size of portraits. Rembrandt had a remarkable capacity to think the subject in an imaginative way. (Jan Six (1647) and Amount Tholinx (1656))
Some of the print portraits were accompanied by text. The portrait of the theologian Erasmus of Rotterdam (1526) by Durer has a Latin encrypt that he has gotten a true to life image because his own words are a way of depicting him.
Rembrandt connected with literacy documents. Some suggested that his paintings were intended for viewers familiar with the people portrayed. He created the illusion as if the person has come to live as they said “To make the absent seem present, and the dead alive.” He is also a history painter and this can be seen in the Night Watch where we see a physical activity of figures. It plays like a history action rather than a portrait and the scene is during the day but because of the use of dark colors has this name. In the portrait of Husband and Wife the gesture reflects the artist motive.
Rembrandt is not a professional portraitist. In the portrait of Haesje Cleyburg (1634) we see a slash of colors, wrinkles around her eyes, play of light that shows a specific temporal experience. Also, the modulation of color in the background is a record of real lived experience.
He also used framing devices like window embracer as if the figure illusionistic passed on our space. Rembrandt made many self-portraits where he used the deployment of shadow and light, chiaroscuro, and created an undetermined space.