Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits

by | Aug 8, 2011 | 2011, Musings | 0 comments

How would you like to have such an exhaustive legacy that 400 years from now people know you and your work so well that they only refer to you by your first name? Well, there are some very famous artists/painters that are known that way. How about Michelangelo ( Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni), or Raphael (Raphaello Sanzio da Urbino ), or Titian ( Tiziano Vecellio)? I recently discovered this interesting fact while reading a biography on Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijin). But I digress…

This particular biography was focused on a discussion about Rembrandt’s spiritual life and the influence that the Bible had on him and his work. He was born into a “Christian culture,” raised by a Catholic mother and a Protestant father in a time when the Dutch were deeply divided on the merits of John Calvin’s teachings. The author, Greg Watts states that “what we can be fairly sure of, however is that he grew up in a home where the Bible was read aloud by his parents and most likely prayers were said before meals. He would probably have attended worship with his family, at least some of the time.”

Without a great deal more study, I could not comfortably speak to Rembrandt’s true relationship with Christ, but he was clearly influenced by the Bible. He produced approximately 160 biblical paintings, 80 etchings and 600 drawings all with biblical references. He was particularly impacted by the theme of grace and loved to explore the interaction between God and ordinary people.

What fascinated me most about this study was the information about his self portraits. Apparently he painted around 50 self-portraits over a period of 40 some years. No doubt in the beginning they were all just part of his professional “practicing” as he honed his craft. But these paintings, drawings and etchings reflect his entire adult life. They captured him as rebellious youth with a zest for life, recorded his difficulties with his financial matters, reflected his personal challenges and even his defiant spirit. As works of art, they are priceless. And as a kind of record of the life he spent they are very insightful.

It got me to thinking about how you or I might attempt to record the seasons of our lives. How do we capture the various ebbs and flows of our spiritual journey for those who walk behind us? I cannot paint, or sketch or draw at all! I have no abilities to capture things on film. It would be ludicrous to record my singing voice. But…I could write journals.

This week, I am challenging myself to put pen to paper (or finger to key) and try and snatch some of the ins and outs of my current spiritual walk and record what God, in His amazing grace is doing for me. I am certain that it will not rise to the level of true art or be read and admired by others 400 years from now. But, it might just be a blessing to someone who stumbles on those writings as they lumber along in life. It would be my prayer that they would shed light on the grace and mercy of our Savor.

My “self-portraits” will be on bright white, letter size, multipurpose

paper bought at Staples. But if it in any way glorifies the Lord, it will be of value. How can you capture the depth of your spiritual journey? It is worth thinking about.

By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel


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