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Self-portrait, wearing a Feathered Bonnet

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1635 (signed and dated)

Materials

Oil on poplar panel

Measurements

912 x 719 mm

Place of origin

Amsterdam

Order this image

Collection

Buckland Abbey, Devon

NT 810136

Caption

One of the most famous artists of all time, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) repeatedly used his own face to practise and demonstrate his craft. Many of his self-portrait paintings and drawings survive, and this one was painted in 1635, when he had recently moved from Leiden to Amsterdam and begun a successful career. Here we see him dressing up as a wealthy adventurer. He wears a flamboyant plumed hat, a short velvet cloak embroidered with gilt and jewelled adornments, and (bizarrely) a military metal neckband (gorget) from a suit of armour. The lighting is as theatrical as the outfit, and Rembrandt appears to be experimenting with the use of angled light and looming shadows to create a sense of brooding or impending drama. Although the portrait is signed and dated, its attribution was once considered doubtful. However, it has recently been subjected to cleaning and scientific analysis and has been confirmed as a work by the master’s hand.

Summary

Oil painting on poplar panel, Self-portrait, wearing a Feathered Bonnet by Rembrandt van Rijn (Leyden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), signed and dated, at the lower right background: Rembrant / f (followed by three dots in a triangular pattern) 1635. A half-length portrait of the artist with a white and golden feathered bonnet. He is also wearing a sumptuously embroidered velvet cloak, a gorget (metal neckband) and gold chains from which is suspended a medallion, seemingly fashioned from a Spanish doubloon or real. His jewelled beret has elegant golden and white plumes, attached theatrically in the centre with a large gem. He is standing in a starkly-lit studio and his shadow with the feathers is playfully depicted on the wall behind. The portrait was painted in 1635, after the artist had settled in Amsterdam from his native Leiden and had married Saskia van Uylenburgh, cousin of his art-dealer friend.

Full description

Rembrandt painted, drew and engraved his own portrait many times, but although we recognise his features in this picture, it is not a straightforward self-portrait. Instead, it is an example of a tronie, a popular form of figurative art in the Netherlands, in which the subject played a character, wore fancy dress, or pulled exaggerated facial expressions. Tronies were intended to show off an artist’s skill in characterisation and illusionism. The portrait was painted in Amsterdam in 1635, at a time of great prosperity for the artist and his is family. His fanciful costume lends the picture a feeling of timelessness, luxury and flamboyance; he wears a velvet cape richly embroidered with gold, an old-fashioned velvet bonnet decorated with two vertical ostrich feathers, a gorget from a suit of armour around the base of his neck and a gold chain across the chest, from which is suspended a coin, probably a Spanish real, salvaged from a shipwreck. Acquired as a genuine Rembrandt by Prince Joseph-Wenzel von Liechtenstein (1696-1772), the picture was considered as such by Rembrandt scholars until 1968 when the art historian Horst Gerson suggested it was possibly by a member of the artist’s studio or by one of his favourite pupils, Govaert Flinck (1615-60). However, the high quality of the picture and the fact that it does not reproduce any other known self-portrait by Rembrandt suggest that it is in fact a prototype. Technical examination at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge, in 2013 and 2014, included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis. Cleaning and removal of yellowed varnish revealed more of the original colours and painting style. It was found that the signature was contemporary with the creation of the portrait. The infra-red and x-ray images showed how the composition was changed during the execution of the work. The artist altered the position of the left arm, which would not be consistent with it being a copy. The unusually mechanical execution of the feathers on the bonnet suggests that they may have been painted by an assistant. The wood of the panel was identified as being from the poplar/willow family, and the pigments were found to include azurite, smalt and bone black, typical of Rembrandt’s palette. In 2013 the portrait was reattributed to Rembrandt by Ernst van de Wetering. At least three copies are known in Wiesbaden, in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (Palazzo Baberini), Rome, and formerly in the Cook collection, Doughty House, Richmond.

Provenance

Acquired by Prince Joseph Wenzel of Liechtenstein (1696-1772), Vienna; collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, until at least 1948 (when exhibited at Lucerne); with Edward Speelman, London, 1960s; Harold Samuel, Baron Samuel of Wych Cross (1912 - 1987); acquired by the National Trust as a gift from the estate of the late Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross (1918-2008), 2010.

Credit line

Buckland Abbey (given from the estate of Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross (1918-2008) to the National Trust in 2010)

Marks and inscriptions

Verso: White exhibition label: Kunstmuseum Luzern 1948 Meisterwerke aus den Sammlungen des Fursten von Liechtenstein Katalog Nr. 104 Verso: In black ink: 1635 and more crossed out with blue chalk across Verso: White label, maekedin blue in: 84 corresponds to its inventory number when it was in the Galerie Liechtenstein in Vienna and stamp

Makers and roles

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) (and studio?), artist previously catalogued as studio of Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist previously catalogued as possibly Govaert Flinck (Cleves 1615 - Amsterdam 1660), artist previously catalogued as attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist previously catalogued as by Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669), artist

Exhibition history

Young Rembrandt/Jonge Rembrandt, Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 2019 - 2020 Young Rembrandt/Jonge Rembrandt, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2019 - 2020

References

Vosmaer 1868: C. Vosmaer, Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn, sa vie at ses oeuvres, Le Haye 1868, p. 508 Dutuit 1881-85: E. Dutuit, L'Oeuvre Complet de Rembrandt, Paris 1881-85, vol. III, p. 50, no. 141 Bode 1883: W. Bode, Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei, Braunschweig 1883, pp. 411, 576, no. 131 Wurzbach 1886: A. von Wurzbach, Rembrandt Galerie, Stuttgart 1886, no. 26 Michel 1893: E. Michel, Rembrandt. Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps, Paris 1893, pp. 215, 560 Moes 1897-1905: Ernst Wilhelm Moes, Iconographia Batava, 2 vols., Amsterdam 1897-1905, no. 6693, p. 33 Bode & Hofstede de Groot 1898: W. Bode and C. Hofstede de Groot, Rembrandt, Paris 1898 - 1900, vol. III, 1899, no.168 Hofstede de Groot 1907-28: C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, 8 vols., London 1907-28, vol. VI, 1916, pp. 285-6, no. 584 Valentier 1908: W. R. Valentier, Rembrandt des Meisters Gemälde, Berlin 1908, p. 150, no. 174 Bredius 1935: A. Bredius, Rembrandt Gemälde, Vienna 1935, no. 25 Gerson 1968: H. Gerson, Rembrandt Paintings, London 1968, no. 171 Lecaldano 1969: P. Lecaldano, The Complete Paintings of Rembrandt, London 1969, p. 103, no. 164 Wright 1982: Christopher Wright, Rembrandt Self-Portraits, London 1982, no. 24, p. 41, pl. 51 Tümpel 1986: Christian Tümpel, Rembrandt in Selstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, Amsterdam 1986, no. A 64 Bruyn 1989: Josua Bruyn (ed.), A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, 1635 - 1642, Rembrandt Research Project, volume III, Dordrecht, Boston, and London 1989, no. C 92 Slatkes 1992: L. J. Slatkes, Rembrandt, Catalogo Completo dei Dipinti, Florence 1992, p. 378, no. 251 Duffy-Zebellos & Fletcher 2005: Lisa Duffy-Zebellos and Sharon Fletcher, 'Three Questioned Rembrandts re-enter the Canon: More to Come', International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2014, pp. 32-39 Wetering 2005: Ernst van de Wetering (ed.), A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, Self-portraits, Rembrandt Research Project, vol. IV, Dordrecht, Boston, and London 2005, p. 234 Prized Possessions: Dutch Paintings from National Trust Houses (exh. cat.), Holburne Museum, Bath 25 May - 16 Sep 2018; Mauritshuis, The Hague, 11 Oct 2018 - 6 Jan 2019; Petworth House, West Sussex, 26 Jan - 24 Mar 2019., pp. 154-7, no. 18 Brown, Van Camp, Vogelaar 2019: Christopher Brown, An Van Camp and Christiaan Vogelaar, Young Rembrandt, Rising Star, exh. cat., Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden 2019 and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2020, p. 276, no. 143

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