Art Institute Chicago exhibits two new Rembrandt portraits
March 1, 2019: The Dutch painter Rembrandt is known for his visual art and holds immense importance in the Dutch history and that of art as well. He complicated the genre, constructing identities through props, lighting, and ambiguous settings—leaving us to ask, “What is a portrait?”
This spring, two portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn are visiting Art Institute Chicago from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. The paintings, Portrait of a Boy and Self-Portrait, join the Art Institute’s own Old Man with a Gold Chain and Young Woman at an Open Half-Door for a look at Rembrandt’s approach to portraiture—one that is decidedly more complex than it may first appear.
In his Self-Portrait of 1636–38 from the Norton Simon Museum, Rembrandt similarly portrayed himself in three-quarter profile, thoughtfully making eye contact with his audience from under a knitted brow. Although his likeness is faithful and familiar, his pose is affected, his left hand tucked into the breast of a costly and elaborate jacket.
The second painting, Portrait of a Boy, shows a boy with a roughly sketched pet, perhaps a bird or monkey, on his left shoulder. His ornate garb—a plumed hat and lace-collared shirt—is again from an earlier period. And yet, despite the theatrical costume and inclusion of the exotic pet, the portrait comes across as frank and honest.
The exhibition will be held at Art Institute Chicago from March 3 to June 9, 2019, from 10:30 am to 5 pm.