Washington DC National Gallery of Art Must-See: The Rembrandt Collection
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is a treasure that everyone living in the vicinity should take advantage of. Whether you’re going on a date or looking for a little inspiration from the greats, you’ll find everything you’re looking for and more.
Luckily, it’s only a 20-minute metro ride from Mt. Pleasant if you hop on the Green or Yellow lines.
And it’s walking distance from the Archives-Navy Mem’l-Penn Quarter Station, so be sure to get off there. Then all you have to do is take in the beautiful work of artists like Da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh, and more.
Today, though, we’re focusing on some paintings by Rembrandt.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter from the 17th century.
His paintings had a wide range of subject matters, from portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes to allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes, and animal studies.
His work was incredibly popular, and he received many commissions, but lived beyond his means and eventually went bankrupt.
Rembrandt’s masterpieces have been through some very exciting times, like when his famous painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee was stolen as a part of the Gardner Museum Heist in 1990, or how two of his paintings escaped the Russian Revolution. (More on that later.)
HHere are a few works of art by Rembrandt.
Lucretia is a very famous Roman figure, known as the catalyst for the revolt that led to overthrowing the tyranny of Tarquinius Superbus in the 6th century.
Lucretia had the reputation of a very honorable woman.
Her husband Collatinus boasted about her virtue and loyalty, which piqued an interest in the son of the tyrant. He went to her home and threatened to kill her if she didn’t let him have his way with her.
Having to choose between life and honor, Lucretia chose honor and killed herself, thus becoming a hero of the Roman people for her dedication to virtue.
Her husband and father swore to avenge her and overthrew the tyrant, which led to the Roman Republic.
This interesting thing about this painting is that many historians believe Lucretia was Rembrandt’s ode to a lost love.
Rembrandt fell in love with a woman named Hendrickje but was unable to marry her because of his late wife’s will. Instead, these two lived together as husband and wife without making it official.
However, when Hendrickje got pregnant, she was excommunicated and lost her standing in society. They were forced to move away, and she died a few years later.
Art historians believe Rembrandt painted Lucretia just three years after Hendrickje died as a symbol of his lover’s perceived loss of virtue. Many believe he blames her death on the people who condemned her.
Rembrandt painted two different versions of Lucretia, both before and after she stabbed herself, to illustrate the story of her death. This painting is on the Main Floor of the West Wing in Gallery 51, but its counterpart lives at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich Feather Fan (1656/1658)
For a long time, the identity of this woman remained a mystery to the general public. But pairing it with its accompanying portrait sheds light on who she is.
Recently revealed to be Margrieta Wijnants, Rembrandt painted pendant marriage portraits of her and her husband, Frans van Schooten.
When paired together, Margrieta is looking at her husband while he gestures to her. Published descriptions of the couple spoke of their ‘extraordinary energy.’
Their portraits were so well-received that Prince Nicolai Yusopov of Russian brought them into his collection.
When the Russian Revolution began in 1917, Prince Nicolai’s great-great-grandson, Prince Felix, escaped with the family jewels and the two portraits. He later sold them in 1921 when he needed money, which is how they came to be a part of the National Gallery of Art.
This portrait is also on display in Gallery 51.
Man in Oriental Costume (1635)
Rembrandt was particularly interested in history and the Middle East because it was where many of the Biblical stories he painted took place.
When Dutch enterprise reached the Middle East, exotic dress became a fashion fad for Dutchmen, including Rembrandt.
In fact, Rembrandt was so interested in Middle Eastern culture that he began collecting items, such as art, shells, swords, musical instruments, and costumes. Many of his paintings include figures in Middle-Eastern clothing.
His fascination with collecting all of these items contributed to his eventual bankruptcy. After living beyond his means to acquire all of these items, he ended up having to sell most of his collection to cover his debts later.
This painting can be found in Gallery 48.
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