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Organized by the Musée du Louvre, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, this exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints provides a beautifully staged history lesson of the life of Rembrandt van Rijin. The lesson begins at the point of entry with a large display of images and information about the period and setting of the Dutch Master’s work. The backdrop for the exhibited images of Jesus describes the artist moving to Amsterdam at a young age and setting up shop in the Jewish part of the city. Through the written narrative and complimentary audio tour, the audience learns about the openness of Amsterdam to those with different religious beliefs. The tour also explains the dominance of a Calvin Protestant movement that permeated the culture. It is in the Jewish section of Amsterdam that Rembrandt finds his model, a Sephardic Jew that appears to be around thirty years old, with long curls, a modest beard, and sensitive features. There are a total of sixty-four works that illustrate his masterful facility for drawing and distinctive use of light that separates his work from his students. The curators acknowledge that since Rembrandt painted alongside his students at a time when the act of studying meant copying from the master; what emerges can be confusing. Rembrandt paints from same model many times, but so do his students; hence the portraits that give credit to the Rembrandt studio.
According to the DIA media release, the exhibition has two masterpieces that illustrate the significant shift in Rembrandt’s approach. Supper at Emmaus, is “a hauntingly beautiful painting of the biblical account of Jesus’ appearance to his followers after his resurrection.” The other is The Hundred Guilder Print (Christ Preaching; Thy Little Children unto Me), which shows Jesus preaching before a crowd. In this print, Rembrandt displays his mastery of printmaking by using every style and technique in his repertoire.
“Rembrandt’s images were a bold departure from traditional renderings of Jesus by Western artists—both of his time as well as before and well after him,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director in a media release provided by DIA. He continues, “Visitors will have a rare opportunity to see how Rembrandt developed this image and how he employed his famous ‘chiaroscuro’—light and shadow—to profound spiritual effect.”
Rembrandt is generally considered one of the greatest painters and print-makers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. In this incredibly well designed exhibit, the audience experiences the master at work.
Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for ages 6–17, and free for DIA members. For membership information call 313-833-7971.
Ron Scott is a pseudonym for a writer based in the Detroit area. View more articles by Ron Scott.