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Self-Portrait Drawing at a Window, 1648

Rembrandt van Rijn

Dutch, 1606-1669
Etching, drypoint, burin; State IV
plate: 6-1/4 x 5-1/8 in. (15.9 x 13.0 cm); sheet: 6-5/8 x 5-1/4 in. (16.8 x 13.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

Ten years passed before Rembrandt created another self-portrait. Here he casts himself as a working artist. Costume has given way to a practical shirt, painter’s coat and narrow-brimmed hat. His furrowed brow suggests the concentration demanded of his enterprise. A radiant beam of light from the left provides the sole illumination for the dark, minimally described studio. A rich chiaroscuro—achieved through a dense network of cross-hatching, drypoint and slashes of burin—lends a gravitas to the artist’s figure.

It is worth remembering, as one considers the inspiration for this self-portrait, that Rembrandt was an avid print collector. He was familiar with the iconography of the scholar in his studio, accompanied by the attributes of his profession. This well-known subject in painting and printmaking, dating to the late 15th century, provided a matrix for his composition. As noted in the earlier self-portraits, Rembrandt was conversant with contemporary art theory, which esteemed drawing, or disegno, as the conceptual foundation of the visual arts. The implement he holds in his hand, poised above a tablet or small copper plate, is meant for drawing. This association would have been recognized by the circle of scholars and poets who were fast becoming
Rembrandt’s patrons.

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