Partial Show Extension: Works on loan from the Lugt Collection will remain on view in the Lower-Level Exhibition Galleries through May 22. See a Virtual Tour of the paintings in the Oval Room.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) The Polish Rider
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection
Rembrandt's painting of a youthful long-haired rider in
Polish dress, armed with two swords, a war hammer, and a
quiver of arrows, remains one of his most haunting works.
The serene, open expression of the rider contrasts with the
barren, unforgiving nocturnal terrain through which he and
the horse proceed at some speed. In the more thinly painted
background, we can make out a domed citadel with fortified
buildings atop a hill and at right a ridge of trees leading down
to a tower that overlooks a pool at whose edge a fire burns
The young man's red fur-lined cap, or kuczma, and his long
riding coat, known as a joupane, were of the kind worn
by Polish (and Hungarian) light cavalry officers during the
seventeenth century, but their significance is hard to assess.
Not a commissioned equestrian portrait, this painting seems
to belong to the realm of myth or allegory, and the subject
has been interpreted as a "glorification of youthful courage
and dedication to a worthy end," with the young warrior
identified as a latter-day crusader or Christian knight.
Rembrandt's handling and the degree to which he finished all
areas of his composition have been much debated. Sections
such as the horse's neck, harness, and bit and the rider's face,
jacket, and weapons are described in meticulous detail. Other
areas, such as the sky and buildings in the background, the
landscape, and the horse's legs and hindquarters are sketchier
in appearance. It has been suggested that The Polish Rider may have been an unfinished composition, brought rapidly to
completion by Rembrandt — or another artist — so that the
work might be included in one of the artist's bankruptcy sales