Rembrandt van Rijn

‌Rembrandt is a Dutch artist who was prominent during the Baroque and Dutch Golden Age. The Baroque age was a period after the Renaissance age that excelled even more in art! It is know for it’s excessive yet super extravagant detail (which can sometimes be a little overwhelming). In addition, the Dutch Golden Age was a time in the 17th century, where Netherlands was at it’s highest as a culture and society.

Rembrandt’s art usually focused on many subjects, from Greek mythology to biblical stories to landscapes. He was even known for creating very sophisticated self-portraits throughout his life. He was also extremely good with painting and printmaking.

There are two examples of his work that I wanted to show you guys. One of them is a painting called The Descent from the Cross, created in 1634.

Rembrandt, The Descent from the Cross, 1634

This painting plays on the idea of light. The background is dark and shadowy, and the light is focusing mostly on the Christ who is being descended from the cross. This light focus on Christ might be showing that Christ is the light, in darkness follow Christ, Christ is pure while he is surrounded by sinners, and/or this is Christ’s sacrifice for us and the light is directing us to him (this are just educated guesses). It may just be that this painting is meant to be focused on Christ, making him the center of the work. There is also light on Mary’s face, which could possibly show that she is sharing Christ’s agony in Cavalry, she is pure like Christ (from her immaculate conception), and/or the viewer must pay attention to that pain that Mary suffered in seeing her son die.

One can definitely see that the composition of this painting is odd, crowded, and a little uncomfortable. Most of the individuals in this scene are devastated for Christ’s death. Holy Mary has fainted in the back, and her friends are holding her up. Jesus is in the center. People are trying to bring him down after his death on the cross. His body is pale, and twisted in an unsettling way.

Fun fact: Since this painting is stored in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, it faced a problem during WWII in the siege of Leningrad. There was a fear that this painting, along with many others, would get destroyed. So many works were packed into the vault and cellars under the Museum and put back up and restored after the war ended.

The second example I wanted to present was an etching and dry point called The Death of the Virgin, created in 1639.

Rembrandt, The Death of the Virgin, 1639

This, along with many other prints, amazes me. It’s fascinating how much detail is in this work (it’s only about 16 by 12 in!). There are five plates of this in total. It is not stated which plate this one is.

The Death of the Virgin is a representation of the moment in which the Holy Mary dies. This print is super complex, since it shows the Heavens and the earth, and it shows a variety of reactions. On top of the print, there is an opening to Heaven and angels are coming down to make Mary. On the bottom, there are people, her family and friends, who are lamenting her death.

We, the viewers, are also a part of the scene. We are observing from a corner the wonders and pain of Mary’s death. Even though it is sad to see Mary die, she is going to Heaven which is better than life on earth.

These two works are just some of the amazing works that Rembrandt has created. If any of you guys have the chance to look into his work, then do it. He truly has the skill to depict a narrative in complexity, showing his brilliant mind and artist skill.

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