This exhibition is the first devoted to the late paintings of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). It is also the first to assemble a large group of his religious portraits—sixteen in all.
In the last decade of his life, Rembrandt painted a group of apostles, evangelists, and related figures of haunting beauty and psychological intensity. He rendered them in a vigorous and highly individual technique, sculpting faces and hands in paint.
Nothing is known about Rembrandt's reasons for creating so many images of this type around 1660. He had recently endured bankruptcy and the loss of his house and possessions. His rough brushwork and restricted palette had also become less popular with collectors. Perhaps he painted these works for particular patrons or as part of an ambitious new business venture.
These late religious portraits reveal Rembrandt's empathy for the great figures of the church as well as his idiosyncratic approach to traditional subjects. Rembrandt minimized the traditional symbols of religious figures, such as the instruments of their martyrdom. Instead, he emphasized their inner spiritual life, uncertainties, and convictions.
The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.