Universiteit Leiden

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Self-Portrait with Gorget

In this penetrating self-portrait dating from around 1629, Rembrandt presents himself as an aristocratic young man. He enrolled in Leiden University as a student of the arts in 1620, but whether he actually attended lectures is unknown. In his paintings and prints, he incorporated many topics that are still studied at the Faculty of Humanities: history, biblical themes, classical mythology and eastern motifs. That explains why this self-portrait is now adorning the roof of the Faculty of Humanities.

Rembrandt, ca.1629, oil on panel, 38.2 x 31 cm, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

Mass of curls

Rembrandt’s youthful yet self-confident expression as he gazes directly at us is almost touching. The mass of curls ends in a lovelock, a popular hairstyle with noblemen in those days. Although Rembrandt was not a member of the aristocracy, he did enjoy dressing up. His get-up in this picture could be that of a nobleman or an officer. He wears a gleaming gorget, a piece of armour that protects the throat from attack.

Light and shade

From shy-looking 20-year old, to Amsterdam jet-set painter to world-weary old man: Rembrandt produced an exceptional number of self-portraits during his lifetime. He painted, drew or etched himself in a whole array of guises, including beggar, civic guard and man from the East.

Self-Portrait with Gorget on the Lipsius building. Photo Marc de Haan

In this self-portrait from his Leiden period, we can see how Rembrandt, who was about 23 at the time, is already playing with the effects of light and shade. The light falls on his right cheek, whereas the rest of his face is dark. It was thought for a long time that this portrait from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg was a 17th-century copy and that the original was at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. But technical and stylistic research has since shown that the portrait from Nuremberg is the original Rembrandt self-portrait and the Mauritshuis painting a contemporary copy.

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