388 Convention and uniqueness in Rembrandt’s response to the east

On 29 and 30 October 2020, the ceremonial openings were to have taken place of an exhibition in Kunstmuseum Basel of which I am guest curator: Rembrandt’s orient: west meets east in Dutch art of the seventeenth century. Because of the pandemic, no openings are being held. Today, I am pleased to say, 31 October, the exhibition is open to the public. Travel restrictions have kept me from being in on the hanging or seeing the exhibition at all for the time being. I can only hope that I can see it before it closes on 14 February 2021 and that by the time the exhibition moves on to Museum Barberini in Potsdam in March 2021 there will be an opening at which I can speak. The catalogue includes an essay of mine on Rembrandt. It had to be shortened, but I have permission from the museums to publish the complete version on the Schwartzlist. The essay is a review of oriental motifs in Rembrandt’s art, which tend to be conventional, and an argument concerning the nature of one group of works that is entirely unique.

To entice you into reading the essay, this column shows only the illustrations. To find out what I have to say about them, click here.

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Convention and uniqueness in Rembrandt’s response to the east

The full version of an essay published in the catalogue to the exhibition Rembandt’s Orient: West Meets East in Dutch Art of the Seventeenth Century, Basel (Kunstmuseum Basel) and Potsdam (Museum Barberini) 2020-21.

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380 Whitewashing Rembrandt, part 2

This is a two-part series about archive researchers incapable of accepting that Rembrandt was manipulative, no more trustworthy than he had to be, tricky with money, capable of great cruelty, and about whom in his century few people had a nice word to say. Both of these researchers added significantly to our knowledge of Rembrandt’s life, and both coupled their archival citations to tendentious claims that the documents absolve Rembrandt of all stigma.

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379 Whitewashing Rembrandt, part 1

This is a two-part series about archive researchers, one in 1852 and one in 2019, who were incapable of accepting that Rembrandt was manipulative, no more trustworthy than he had to be, tricky with money, capable of great cruelty and downwardly mobile. Both of these researchers added significantly to our knowledge of Rembrandt’s life, and both coupled their archival findings to the tendentious claim that the documents absolve Rembrandt of all stigma. Continue reading “379 Whitewashing Rembrandt, part 1”

378 “The mother’s eye reveals the son”

A splendid documentary on the ownership of and trade in Rembrandt paintings prompts Schwartz to ask questions not posed in the film. What went on behind the scenes in Paris to allow the Rothschild family to sell abroad a treasure of French cultural heritage? And could the Duke of Buccleuch’s painting of an old woman reading not be the mother of Jan Six?


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375 Another third poem on Rembrandt Jews

Did Rembrandt have more sympathy for Jews and Judaism than most of his contemporaries? This has long been taken for granted, and his paintings of Old Testament subjects and portraits of Jews have been discussed in this light. Since 1984, Schwartz has been questioning this assumption. Here he presents new evidence that Rembrandt cooperated in attaching anti-Semitic meaning to his work. Continue reading “375 Another third poem on Rembrandt Jews”

373 Putting ourselves and Rembrandt to the test

For Peter Hecht, who following his retirement from a celebrated professorship in art history at Utrecht University, entered the fray of interpreters of Rembrandt’s notoriously treacherous Leiden History Painting. Schwartz reviews the state of the question, especially with regard to the emotions of three of the figures, and reintroduces into the discussion a neglected piece of pertinent evidence.

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371 Ears and eyes

In his paintings of faces Rembrandt displays knowledge of a particular muscular feature, the one that gives some people bags under their eyes. Schwartz became mildly obsessed with following this from face to face and found that Rembrandt never gave paying sitters the bags he admits to in some self-portraits and mercilessly records when painting old studio models.

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369 Art twins

Like the conjunctions of stars and planets, artists can become aligned so closely that you can’t see the difference between one and another. When that happens, the result can be greater than the sum of the parts. Schwartz looks at two Italian and two Dutch pairs of artists who entered into bondings of that kind.

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