Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Young Woman (1632)

This portrait of A Young Woman in a Black Cap, its full title, was "bought" by the Nazi leader Hermann Goering during the war and, after a succession of owners, sold again at Sotheby's in 2009.  Once thought to have been painted by a follower of Rembrandt, the Rembrandt Research Group now gives full authorship, after a recent cleaning, to the master himself. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Rembrandt, Portrait of a Young Woman in a Black Cap, detail (1632)

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Most significantly, as far as we are concerned, the sitter was once thought to depict Rembrandt's sister. Indeed so many portraits by great masters were once thought to be "self-portraits" or "relatives of the artist" that academic resistance to the idea that every painter paints himself is somewhat baffling. How can they explain why so many "patrons" resemble the artist?

 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of Rembrandt's Portrait of a Young Woman (1632)

Right: Detail of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait in a Gorget (c.1629)

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It is worth noting that Rembrandt's forehead in three self-portraits, each painted or drawn shortly before this portrait, is divided diagonally into light and shade, leaving one eye lit, the other dark. While appearing natural, the diagonal division of the forehead poetically conveys the two forms of artistic vision: that of exterior reality and insight.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Rembrandt, Self-portrait with an Open Mouth, detail (c.1629)

Center: Rembrandt, Self-portrait in a Gorget, detail (c.1629)

Right: Rembrandt, Self-portrait, detail (1632)

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Rembrandt clearly thought when he came to this portrait that one eye in bright light and the other in deep shade may not have looked appropriate on a woman's face, the lighting too harsh. Thus to convey his intended meaning he placed the cap, not the shadow, at the same angle, a formal link that anyone familiar with Rembrandt's poetry would have recognized. Thus just as the Mona Lisa is Leonardo's feminine self sharing the same facial proportions as Leonardo, so too does this fictitious lady share Rembrandt's.

Captions for image(s) above:

Rembrandt, Portrait of a Young Woman in a Black Cap, detail 

Click image to enlarge.

 

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 03 Jun 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.