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) Self-Portrait
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection
In a final pitch the art dealer Charles Carstairs, head of
Knoedler's London office, dispatched a breathless letter to
Frick on November 23, 1906: "I have pictured it in your
gallery since first beginning negotiations for it four months
ago. It is the greatest single portrait existing and…is a
portrait of Rembrandt himself. It is most powerful, grand,
monumental. If only you could see the picture over your
mantel, dominating the entire gallery, just as you dominate
those you come into contact with…."
This is the largest of Rembrandt's many self-portraits, painted
when he was fifty-two years old. The paint is applied thickly
in rich layers, with broken surfaces, highlights, and glazes
that confirm how carefully thought out Rembrandt's "rough
manner" was. Executed during a period of constraint and
adversity, at a time when Rembrandt had declared bankruptcy,
and was obliged to sell his vast collections, this magisterial
self-portrait presents the aging artist in historical and exotic
costume. Rembrandt portrays himself in a golden-yellow
pleated jerkin, worn over a linen shirt, fastened diagonally.
An ornamental neck cloth is tucked into the front of the
jerkin, and a red sash is wound twice around his waist. In his
left hand, the artist holds a silver-tipped jointed rattan cane.
Rembrandt is not shown working but attired in sixteenth-century
costume that would have conjured associations with
artists of the Northern Renaissance. Yet the poignancy of the
artist's representation of himself remains. As was noted when
the painting was exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of
Art in 1909, "it is the head of an old lion at bay, worn and
melancholy, yet conscious of his strength, determined and a