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Rembrandt- A Sassy Influencer

Rembrandt- A Sassy Influencer


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

gold gilded rembrandt

There’s a new gentleman in town who has recently arrived from England. Hailing from London’s National Gallery of Art, Rembrandt van Rijn’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34 has arrived at the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena. At the opening night preview, Norton Simon Chief Curator Carol Tognieri revealed that this is the London gentleman’s first trip to the United States. Several attendees at the opening observing the painting up close, commented on the young man’s dewy skin.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait at the Age of 34; 1640; Oil on canvas; 102 x 80 cm,  On loan from  London’s National Gallery of Art

Unlike Rembrandt’s later self-portraits depicting wizened, furrowed brows, this is a dashing subject. The sumptuous gold frame itself warrants admiration. But don’t let the august, majestic pose of the gentleman artist fool you: Rembrandt was a sassy dude.

The full range of Rembrandt’s personality shines through the clever juxtaposition of two exhibits: the imperial aura of the self-portrait and the humorous, irreverent images in a concurrent exhibit: Rembrandt’s Prints of a Particular Spirit. In the former, Rembrandt portrayed himself as a gentleman artist. In the latter exhibit, one sees glimpses of a mischievous maverick.

One of Rembrandt’s favorite models was himself (due to the fact that he was readily available). In the prints, one can view the full palette of Rembrandt’s emotions.


A bit like a sassy selfie, no?

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open Mouthed, 1630Etching; only state, plate: 2 x 1-3/4 in. (5.1 x 4.4 cm); sheet: 2-1/16 x 1-13/16 in. (5.2 x 4.6 cm), Norton Simon Art Foundation; M.1977.32.010.G  © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Do not miss the juxtaposition of three expressions of Rembrandt: Self-portrait in a Cap, Open Mouthed, Beggar Seated on a Bank, and Self-Portrait Wearing a Soft Cap: Full Face, Head Only.  In this series, Rembrandt used his face to express a full palette of emotions: despair, surprise, and joy. His beggar was a metaphorical jibe, exposing his distaste for artists ingratiating themselves with their benefactors. Rembrandt, on the other hand, had a reputation for being contentious with his clients. The Self- Portrait in a Cap, Open Mouth depicts his madcap humor.


Rembrandt van Rijn Self-Portrait with Saskia 1636Etching, State I,  plate: 4-1/8 x 3-11/16 in. (10.5 x 9.4 cm); sheet: 4-1/4 x 3-3/4 in. (10.8 x 9.5 cm)  Norton Simon Art Foundation,  M.1977.32.027.G © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Look into my eyes…. Rembrandt the Romantic..

(Facebook Status: Rembrandt’s In A Relationship)

Self Portrait with Saskia is the only etched image of Rembrandt with his beloved wife, Saska Van Uylenburgh. In this image one can see a Dutch Motto “Liefde Barte Kunst ”(Love brings forth art). Additionally, this image includes a porte-crayon, a two-ended drawing instrument in Rembrandt’s hand, designating this as Rembrandt’s first self portrait as an artist.

Another gem to be gleamed from the exhibit is the connection of Rembrandt with berets. Rembrandt proved a forerunner in popularizing the beret among artists. Rembrandt’s contemporaries, including Gerard Dou, emulated him by donning the beret in their own self-portraits to denote their creativity.


I wear a beret, therefore I create…

Thanks for the fashion tip, Rembrandt!

Gerard Dou

Self-Portrait With A Palette, In a Niche,

1660-1665, Oil on Panel,

Height 31cm, Width 21 CM 

© The Louvre.

The beret as a signifier for an artist is not limited to the scope of art history; rather, Rembrandt’s beret has impacted pop culture as well.




Left: Pablo Picasso 

Not only have countless artists ranging from Picasso and Maillol to Hemingway donned the beret, but so did Snoopy as he stood next to his easel. Every cheesy flick or television show will inevitably use a beret as costume shorthand for “artiste.”



I may not be Rembrandt, but this beret means I can paint paw-fec-tly

Charles Monroe Schulz, Snoopy.

In today’s social media parlance, Rembrandt was a real influencer.

Posted by on December 10th, 2017

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