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Architecture & Design | An entirely new view of the phenomenon of Rembrandt’s self-portraits

An entirely new view of the phenomenon of Rembrandt’s self-portraits

Volume IV of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair

On 20 October 2005 at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Volume IV of A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings will be presented to the editor Ernst van de Wetering by the CEO of Springer Derk Haank. The Corpus sets out the results of research conducted by the Rembrandt Research Project, which was established in 1968 in order to investigate the paintings attributed to Rembrandt. This project was made possible by the support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NOW, Committee for the Humanities) and the University of Amsterdam. Volume IV, like earlier volumes, is published by Springer (formerly Martinus Nijhoff/Kluwer Academic Publishers).
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The new volume – comprising some 700 pages and 650 illustrations, 250 of which are in colour – deals with the numerous problems surrounding Rembrandt’s self-portraits. The question of why Rembrandt made so many self-portraits is one of the most intriguing topics in art history; and the same applies to the question of why a number of those works were not painted by himself. In addition to a catalogue of Rembrandt’s self-portraits from 1640-1669, the book contains a large chapter written by Ernst van de Wetering, in which, besides methodological aspects, all the self-portraits usually attributed to Rembrandt are dealt with - including those etched and drawn - and an attempt is made to answer the many questions concerning the authenticity and function of these works.
The book further contains a contribution from the costume specialist Marieke de Winkel on the interpretation of dress in Rembrandt’s self-portraits. His costuming appears to contain ‘messages’ that were probably intelligible to art-lovers of Rembrandt’s time, such as the references to artists like the great 16th century peintres graveurs, Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden, whom Rembrandt must have emulated. In other paintings, when he portrays himself in working clothes, Rembrandt pays homage to the dignity of his own craft.
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In another chapter, the chemist Karin Groen presents her research on the preparation of the canvases and panels that Rembrandt, his pupils and other contemporaries used. Thanks to this research, it was possible to demonstrate that a number of the self-portraits were painted by others in Rembrandt’s workshop, probably by his pupils. This is not merely a question of copies, but also of free variants based on Rembrandt’s autograph self-portraits. It is remarkable that these variants are often more exaggeratedly ‘Rembrandtesque’ than Rembrandt’s own self-portraits.
A contribution by historian Jaap van der Veen is devoted to 17th century ideas about authenticity in the art of painting; his research shows that the authenticity of a painting became increasingly important during Rembrandt’s time. In addition, the book includes a complete review by the wood biologist Peter Klein with all the dendrochronological information relating to Rembrandt’s panels, data that turned out to be of the greatest significance for the work of the RRP in all four volumes of the Corpus, because they provided one of the reference points against which to test connoisseurial judgement, in which criteria of style and quality play the most important role. In the section Corrigenda a number of earlier attributions and dis-attributions by the RRP are revised on the basis of new information and new insights.The fourth volume presented here offers an entirely new view of the phenomenon of Rembrandt’s self-portraits and a wealth of surprising discoveries in this area. It is anticipated that the fifth volume, devoted to the so-called ‘small-figure’ history pieces by Rembrandt and the pupils in his workshop will appear in 2007.
The fourth volume presented here offers an entirely new view of the phenomenon of Rembrandt’s self-portraits and a wealth of surprising discoveries in this area. It is anticipated that the fifth volume, devoted to the so-called ‘small-figure’ history pieces by Rembrandt and the pupils in his workshop will appear in 2007.
Series:Rembrandt Research Project Foundation, Vol. 4
van de Wetering, Ernst (Ed.); ISBN: 1-4020-3280-3;
Prepublication price, valid until 31 Dec. 2005: $1,000.00