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Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639

Rembrandt van Rijn

Dutch, 1606-1669
Etching and drypoint, State I
plate: 8-3/16 x 6-3/8 in. (20.8 x 16.2 cm); sheet: 8-3/16 x 6-3/8 in. (20.8 x 16.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

This magnificent self-portrait represents the high art of self-fashioning; here the artist advances himself as imaginative, confident and capable. Rembrandt is dressed in an opulent 16th-century costume, and his pose and demeanor reference two well-known portraits: Raphael’s portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, c. 1514–15, and Titian’s portrait of Ludovico Ariosto, 1508–10. Rembrandt’s pictorial statement here is clear: he is an aspiring artist who counts himself in the company of esteemed painters who went before him, and he is familiar with the theoretical art writings of the day. These texts doubtless included Karel van Mander’s Schilder-boeck [Painter book], which contains artists’ biographies and elaborates on art theory. It also recognizes Raphael and Titian as great artists suitable for imitation. This etching serves as an engaging calling card in which the artist stakes his claim to artistic excellence and shares his sense of well being at this moment in his thriving career.

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