Self-portrait as a Young Man
Harmenzoon van Rijn Rembrandt
Self-portrait as a Young Man
Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
This is one of the many self-portraits of the Dutch artist.
The artist is still young in this portrait and he is looking directly at the viewer. His light brown curly hair is partly covered with a soft black beret and he is wearing an elegant dark velvet suit with a precious metal collar.
He is looking calm almost smiling with his mouth slightly open. In his early work he shows already great capacity of psychological interpretation in his portraits.
Rembrandt has corrected later some errors in the hat, the edges of the mantle and some strands of hair. He also changed the background, as the x-ray investigations have shown there was something behind his right shoulder, perhaps a back of a chair which was later covered.
Rembrandt painted this self-portrait in Amsterdam, where he had moved in 1631. The work is dated around 1634, when Rembrandt was 28 years old. However, the artist seems to be younger in this portrait and there has been some speculation that the work was completed earlier.
In 1759 Pierre-Jean Mariette mentioned the painting in the collection of the County Palatine of the Rhine in Dusseldorf. It was owned by Johann Wilhelm, husband of Anna Maria Luisa, the last descendant of the Medici family. Perhaps for this link to Florence, the work was donated to Gerini, although there are no documents of this donation. In 1818 the Grand Duke Ferdinando III of Lorraine bought the painting from Gerini and paid him 500 gold coins. The painting was put on display in the gallery of Palazzo Pitti. In 1822 the painting was moved to Uffizi and perhaps at this moment the neoclassical frame was replaced with the baroque frame which is present today.
There are many copies of the oil painting, like the one painted in pastels in the Villa of Poggio Imperiale, made perhaps by Domenico Tempesti, or the one made by Francesca Celeste Fanfani in 1736 in the Uffizi Gallery.
Rembrandt was born in 1606 in Leiden where he worked with Jacob van Swanenburgh in his early years. In 1624 he moved to Amsterdam where he studied in Pieter Lastmann’s workshop, which was an important step in his career. Before Amsterdam he had been in Italy where he had seen the works of Adam Elsheimer and Caravaggio and his followers, which had a great influence on Rembrandt’s artistic style.
He returned to Leiden around 1625 and opened a workshop with great success and numerous students. During this period he painted his first major works, such as The Stoning of St. Stephen (Lyon, Musée des Beaux Arts), Tobit and Anna with the Kid (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) and portraits of some of his relatives, where the colors are still bright but there are already some complex light effects which were typical for him. The following works, such as the Moneychanger (1627, Berlin, Dahlem) or St. Paul at his Writing Desk (1629-1630, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum) were influenced by Caravaggio. Also the works of Baburen, Terbrugghen and von Honthorst inspired him. The contrasts between light and shadow were stronger and his painting became lighter. In this period he started to paint self-portraits which he continued to paint throughout his career.
In 1631 he returned to Amsterdam where he was offered many important commissions, thank to art dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh. Rembrandt often used the chiaroscuro technique for the strong contrasts of lights and shadows in his portraits (Portrait of Maurits Huygens, 1632, Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Portrait if Jacob de Gheyn III, London, Dulwich College).
Among the most famous works of this period was The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632 (The Hague, Mauritshuis) where Rembrandt showed his great capacity of psychological rendering of the scene and depiction of gestures.
In 1633 he married Saskia, granddaughter of merchant Ulyenburgh, who often modeled for him and was involved in several paintings like Portrait of Saskia with Hat (1634, Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), Portrait of Saskia as Flora (1634, St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum), Rembrandt and Saskia (ca. 1635, Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen).
In the 1630s’ his workshop was very active. Between 1632 and 1646 he worked on the episodes of the life of Christ for the stadtholder of northern Netherlands, Frederick Henry. He painted many religious paintings like the Holy Family (Alte Pinakothek, Munich 1634), Susanna and the Elders (1636, L’Aja, Mauritshuis) and mythological themes in large format, which were closer to the Baroque tradition.
Rembrandt became interested in art trading, but in the 1640s’ he had many economic crises and he was forced to sell his collection. Nevertheless, he continued to paint masterpieces like the Nightwatch (1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) and to work on the light effects making his painting even more dense with large and lumpy brushstrokes, as can be seen in Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1644, London, National Gallery), the Adoration of the Shepherds (1646, Monaco, Alte Pinakothek), A Woman bathing in a Stream (1655, London, National Gallery) or portraits of his son Titus.
Rembrandt was also an excellent engraver. Even in his etchings he pays attention to dramatic lighting and expressive layout, which are elements he often used in his numerous self-portraits.
He died in Amsterdam in 1669.
All the artworks of
Harmenzoon van Rijn Rembrandt
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them. The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes. The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family. The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.
Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.
After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.
During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives. In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.
The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.
In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.