In 1640, a 34-year-old Rembrandt painted a self-portrait with his black eyes beaming confidently from beneath a floppy hat, his posture straight but relaxed. He appears far more regal than in an earlier work, Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open Mouthed, 1630, where his hair curls wildly and his face twists in perplexion. The story of these two images, both on view at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, matches the narrative of Rembrandt’s life in the ten years between producing them.
In Self Portrait at the Age of 34, which is on loan from the National Gallery in London, the artist was newly married and at the height of his career. “Rembrandt presents himself as an artist-cum-gentleman, simultaneously paying tribute to the Renaissance masters Dürer, Titian and Raphael, while proclaiming his status as their artistic successor,” says assistant curator Casey K Lee, who organised Rembrandt: Prints “of a Particular Spirit,” which draws on the Norton Simon’s collection of more than 118 etchings by the artist.
“When we think of Rembrandt’s printmaking, we think of his later work, especially after 1640, when he is using dry point extensively and experimenting with different papers,” Lee says. But the earlier prints show how he was “already interested in using line and tone to create drama and depth. By focusing on works from the 1630s, we are able to get a sense of how he honed his skills and transformed his prints after his move to Amsterdam.” Rembrandt: Prints “of a Particular Spirit,”
View of Amsterdam from the Northwest, c. 1640
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Etching, State II
plate: 4-7/16 x 6 in. (11.3 x 15.2 cm); sheet: 4-15/16 x 6-5/8 in. (12.5 x 16.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation