Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)

Currently on View in C207
Image Licensing

Over the course of more than forty years, Rembrandt portrayed his own likeness at least seventy-five times. In this highly unconventional work, painted when Rembrandt was in his early twenties, the artist casts much of his face in deep shadow and obscures most of its outward appearance. His lips parted in spontaneous speech and his eyes all but invisible, Rembrandt's self-portrait conveys an intense preoccupation with his own artistic identity and inner imagination.

Study your emotions in front of a mirror, where you can be both performer and beholder.-Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1678
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Spanning four decades, Rembrandt's inventive self-portraits record his uncompromising study of a face more remarkable for character than beauty. When he completed this painting, Rembrandt was the young master of a modest workshop in his hometown of Leiden. His move to Amsterdam and rise to international fame still lay in the future, yet his skill and originality are already apparent in this small panel. Varied brushstrokes define volume and texture; Rembrandt conveyed the strands of hair by scratching into the wet paint. At the upper right, changes just visible beneath the paint surface reveal how Rembrandt worked to perfect the shape of the beret. His silk scarf and iron gorget, a military accessory, are exotic attributes that transform the artist into a figure of fantasy.

Samuel van Hoogstraten, who studied with Rembrandt in the 1640s and wrote a manual on painting in the 1670s, recommended that artists learn to depict expression by mugging in a mirror. In this likeness, Rembrandt may well have been doing just that. The shaded eyes, the parted lips, and the low, slightly angled vantage point invite a dynamic and somewhat unsettling interaction with the viewer. This painting and others were copied and emulated by Rembrandt's followers, turning the art of self-portrayal into a specialty valued by collectors as a display of both personality and technique.

Study your emotions in front of a mirror, where you can be both performer and beholder.
-Painter Samuel Van Hoogstraten, 1678

Possibly sale at (Pieter Locquet, Amsterdam, The Netherlands), 22 September 1783, lot no. 325; Possibly Pierre Yver.{1} Purchased from a Dutch diplomat in Vienna, Austria, about 1840 by the Polish Count Adolf Husarzewski;{2} To his son, Count Jozef Husarzewski, and his wife, Karolina, née Princess Jablonowska; To their daughter, Countess Eleonora Husarzewska [1866-1940], wife of Prince Andrzej Lubomirski, in their castle at Przeworsk (now Poland); To their son, Prince Jerzy Rafal Lubomirski [1887-1978], Geneva, Switzerland; (Frederick Mont and Newhouse Galleries, New York, New York) in 1951{3}; Dr. George Henry Alexander Clowes [1877-1958], Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1951; Clowes Fund Collection, Indianapolis, since 1958; On long-term loan to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, since 1971; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 2023.

{1} Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, volume 6, London, England, 1916, no. 549, cites this early provenance, but the authors of the Rembrandt Research Project believe it applies to another version. For a thorough study of IMA's painting including provenance and exhibition history, see Stephanie S. Dickey, Rembrandt Face to Face, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2006.
{2} See contributions by Jerzy Mycielski and Leon Pininski in Miecislas Treter, ed., Album de l'Exposition des Maîtres Anciens, avec cinquante reproductions, Ossolinski National Institute, Lvov, 1911.
{3} See correspondence in IMA Clowes Registration Archive (C10063).

Object Information

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
creation date
about 1629
oil on oak panel
17-3/8 x 13-5/8 x 3/4 in. (panel)
27-1/2 x 23-15/16 x 2-3/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed in black paint, lower proper left: RHL
accession number
credit line
Courtesy of The Clowes Fund
Public Domain
European Painting and Sculpture Before 1800

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