Self-Portrait

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on wood
Dimensions
17-1/2 x 13-1/2 in.
Credit line
Courtesy of The Clowes Fund
Accession number
C10063
Collection
Currently On View

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
Possibly Pieter Locquet (sale, Amsterdam, September 22, 1783, lot no. 325); possibly Pierre Yver.{1}Purchased from a Dutch diplomat in Vienna ca. 1840 by the Polish Count Adolf Husarzewski;{2} his son, Count Jozef Husarzewski, and his wife, Karolina, née Princess Jablonowska; their daughter, Countess Eleonora Husarzewska [1866-1940], wife of Prince Andrzej Lubomirski, in their castle at Przeworsk, near Lvov (now Ukraine); their son, Prince Jerzy Rafal Lubomirski [1887-1978], Geneva; (Frederick Mont and Newhouse Galleries, New York) in 1951; Dr. G.H.A.Clowes [1877-1958] from 1951-1958; The Clowes Fund Collection, Indianapolis, 1959-present.

{1} Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. 6, London, 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.
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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