The idea that Rembrandt was sympathetic to Jews and Judaism is so generally accepted that it is seldom questioned critically. One of the pillars of this supposition is the identification of many portrait sitters and models as Jews. Hardly any of these can however stand up to scrutiny.
A friend of Rembrandt’s wrote four poems on The hundred-guilder print. Only two of them, sweet thoughts on the goodness of Christ, are cited in the literature. The third one, a concise statement of classical Christian anti-Judaism, has been repressed in the Rembrandt literature. Schwartz insists that we acknowledge that Rembrandt shared the same attitudes toward the Jews of all his contemporaries and that he was not sympathetic to Judaism. Continue reading “252 The third poem”
The Rembrandt Year 2006 is upon us. At work on a new book on Rembrandt, Schwartz reminisces about the book he edited for the Rembrandt Year 1969. As a publishing project, Horst Gerson’s Rembrandt paintings was a great success. Such successes do not come out of the blue. Schwartz pays tribute to the man who conceived and sold the project, Willem Bloemena.
The Dutch courts are overly lenient in punishing thefts from public museums in the Netherlands, which are on the rise. An anecdotal comparison between thefts from the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam yields a ratio of ten to one between American versus Dutch sentencing. Because the prospect of a heavy sentence may induce a thief to help the police recover the loot, longer terms are called for. Continue reading “233 The cost of art theft to the thief”
The papers are full of long stories on a short letter in the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors, Harvard neurobiologists, claim that his self-portraits contain certain evidence that Rembrandt was wall-eyed and that this had consequences for his artistry. Schwartz begs to differ. The scientists simply ignore a mass of material in which no such aberration is visible, and they fail to notice that similar effects as they observe in Rembrandt portraits can also be seen in self-portaits by others. Continue reading “219 Rembrandt as eyewitness”
In 1998, for an exhibition in Amsterdam and Paris, a team of art historians and archivists retraced Rembrandt’s footsteps in six walks in and around Amsterdam. Following the trajectory of Walk IV, on the Amstel River, Schwartz realizes that Rembrandt’s deepest wish was to have Holland all for himself. Continue reading “213 Walk IV”
One of Europe’s greatest historical print collections is turned into an exhibition hall.
The Van Gogh Museum did not take kindly to my column of January 19th (“The saga of Bouwe Jans”). The museum feels that I criticized it unfairly for the way it handled a request for an expert opinion on the authorship of a possible van Gogh painting. I promised the museum, by way of response, to elaborate on the recommendations in my piece. I do this in print because my remarks were not intended only for the Van Gogh Museum – which I am sure behaved in all good faith in this matter – but for any body, museum or not, that proffers expert opinions on sensitive subjects to the public. Continue reading “154 The transparent connoisseur 1: Free advice to the Van Gogh Museum”
A confidently negative judgment of the original Rembrandt Research Project concerning a painting in Kassel has been reversed by the new leader of the Project. However, the arguments advanced by the Project have not been answered.
The Van Gogh Museum has the good fortune of having acquired a tenacious, articulate, unforgiving critic with enough right on his side to teach it a valuable lesson. Whether the museum sees it that way I do not know; I‘m sure that I would not enjoy reading about myself the kind of things that the Dutch-English art dealer Bouwe Jans has published about the museum in his cantankerous book Artquakes and van Gogh. Yet the Van Gogh Museum and other arbiters of authenticity do have much to learn from his report. Continue reading “149 The saga of Bouwe Jans”