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  • Russ Ramsey

Young Rembrandt and Old Rembrandt

Today’s Art Wednesday compares young Rembrandt with old Rembrandt. We grow & mature in unexpected ways. See Rembrandt’s story through his art. This is Rembrandt’s first known (and signed) work­, The Stoning of St. Stephen, done at the tender age of 19. All his hallmarks are here in infancy—his architecture, his use of dramatic light and dark, his distinct facial expressions.

Rembrandt, The Stoning of Saint Stephen, 1625


Young Rembrandt quickly found success as a portrait artist. He married young Saskia, and they bought a house together. He seemed to have it all. But by age 36, Rembrandt lost his wife and 3 of his 4 children. He also lost his moral compass, lived beyond his means, and ended up bankrupt.

Rembrandt, Portrait of Saskia, c. 1638


Rembrandt painted for more than 40 years over the course of his career. It’s fascinating to see how he changed as an artist. He painted the picture of a man on the left when he was 26. It shows his impressive command. 28 years later, he did the self-portrait on the right when he was 54. What’s changed?

Rembrandt Portraits side by side, Young and Old


Considered Rembrandt’s first true masterpiece, done when he was 23, “Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver.” This painting shows his command of light, detail, and architecture.

Rembrandt, Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver, 1629


Now look at this self-portrait detail from when he was 53, 30 years after “Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver.” Early Rembrandt’s talent was seen by how much he could do. Later it was shown by his restraint.

Rembrandt, Self Portrait, 1659


An early self-portrait, the 22-year-old stands across the room, regarding the endless possibilities of a blank canvas. He’s just beginning.

Rembrandt, Artist in his Studio, 1628


One of Rembrandt’s last paintings after losing his fortune, not long before his death. Here Rembrandt doesn’t regard his easel, but us. He’s simultaneously humbled and defiant.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Two Circles, c. 1665


Rembrandt’s own peers called him “The Master.” He painted the story of Jesus being presented in the temple as a child twice. He did this one when he was 25.

Rembrandt, Simeon's Song of Praise, 1631


Rembrandt’s other painting of Simeon with Jesus. He did this one as an old man, the year he died. See the shift from grandeur to intimacy.

Rembrandt, Simeon in the Temple, 1669

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