Rembrandt Visits Pasadena: “Self Portrait at the Age of 34″ Makes American Debut at The Norton Simon Museum

Published : Monday, November 20, 2017 | 4:17 PM

Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait at the Age of 34,” on loan from The National Gallery, London, makes its U.S. debut in the galleries of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, from December 8, 2017 to March 5, 2018.

Created in 1640, the imaginative, ambitious and exquisitely painted image corresponds to a high point in the artist’s personal and professional life.

Rembrandt established his practice in Amsterdam, Europe’s commercial center in 1632. There, he entered into a business relationship with the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh whose interests are in arranging portrait commissions.

The London self-portrait, one of more than 80 produced over the course of Rembrandt’s life, is rich with clues about the artist’s industry and his far-ranging aesthetic interests. In the painting, he is seated in an arched opening, his torso turned three-quarters to the right, looking out at the spectator with an unflinching gaze. Light falls from the left on a neutral background. His right arm rests on a ledge that extends parallel to the picture plane. Immediately below, and to the right, he signed the painting “Rembrandt f (fecit) 1640.”
He is dressed in opulent attire in the portrait and exudes a magisterial air that underscores his self-presentation as an affluent, and confident artist-cum-gentleman of his time.

In April 1639, one year before “Self Portrait at the Age of 34,” Rembrandt attended a sale that featured a famous portrait by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael: the renowned image of the courtier Baldassare Castiglione, now in the Louvre. Rembrandt recorded his viewing of it in a small sketch.

Inspired and challenged by his exposure to giants of Renaissance art, Rembrandt created the self-portrait resonating with his experience through elements of dress, pose and even by signing the painting with his first name only. He presented himself as heir to artistic tradition.

In the lively market for self-portraits of famous artists, where the painting provided both a likeness of the master and an example by his own hand, cultivated patrons would have appreciated such a significant association.

Also in the exhibit is Rembrandt’s “Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit’” which takes an intimate view of his graphic output during the 1630s, an artistically rich span that corresponds to Rembrandt’s rise from a painter of promise in Leiden to one of the most in-demand portraitists in Amsterdam. Rembrandt’s personal developments and artistic successes were mirrored in his prints.

For more information about the exhibits, visit www.nortonsimon.org.