The Frick Collection – Rembrandt, Van Dyck

My personal exploration into the evolution of Renaissance portraiture began in the long hall of the Frick's west gallery.At the eastern end of the hall hangs a self-portrait of Rembrandt Van Rijn circa 1658, one of the numerous self-portraits he painted during his lifetime.The piece's striking beauty is borne from the detailed study of light, and is only rivaled by the undertone of power that it clearly exudes.However,Rembrandt has not merely illustrated his technical prowess in emulating the nature of light, and instilling an emotional feeling in his figure.Rembrandt has composed a portrait that is founded on an aesthetic basis, where the intensity of detail and beauty reach out and grips the viewer. Only after the viewer is initially entranced by the richness of his tones and the movement of his lines, does the true brilliance of the piece comes into greater foci. The aesthetic value takes center-stage until the psychological component of the painting is activated.
Rembrandt's domineering attitude is the effect of his kingly full frontal pose, and I begin to imagine the artist seated on his royal throne in front of us, his subjects.His right arm shines pale as it rests on the chair illuminated under the falling light, while his left lurks in the shadows clutching his cane like an absolute ruler's scepter.His rich dress of robes glistens like flakes of gold around his neck, and emits an impression of warmth out of the cold and deep background.The wealth of his elaborate dress is contrasted by the simple and almost peasant-like hat adorning his head.The contrast between the dress and hat is called into question even further by the viewer, when it begins to disappear into the background at certain angles.It is this subtle contradictory nature of the portrait that propelled me into my psychological examination of the piece.
Behind the thin veil of elaborate garments and beautiful shadows …


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