Rembrandt's Portraits: Picturing Personality in the Dutch Golden Age

Stephanie S. Dickey, Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Co-presented with the Power Institute

Detail of Rembrant Portrait

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, ca. 1659, Washington, National Gallery. Detail

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) has been admired since his own time as a portraitist whose paintings and prints convey not only the physical features of their models but also a sense of inner life. Rembrandt plied his trade within the entrepreneurial culture of seventeenth-century Holland, where respect for personal achievement and character took precedence over traditional aristocratic attributes of title and position. In this dynamic environment (a crucible of democratic ideals prevalent today), portraiture was transformed from a privilege of the nobility into a means of personal commemoration for diverse individuals, families, and civic groups. While poets and theorists argued over whether, and how, it might be possible to depict "the inner man", Rembrandt set about crafting his response to this question through subtle techniques of pose, lighting and expression. Connoisseurs valued the results as family treasures, marketable commodities, and records of a unique and idiosyncratic talent.

Stephanie Dickey joined the faculty of Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, in 2006 as Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art. Her research interests include the work of Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, and related artists; the history of prints and print collecting; portraiture as a cultural practice; the relationship of word and image; and the representation of emotion. Among her publications are Rembrandt: Portraits in Print (2004), Rembrandt Face to Face (Indianapolis 2006), Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered (exhibition catalogue, Washington, National Gallery of Art, Arthur Wheelock, ed., 2008), and The Passions in the Arts of the Early Modern Netherlands (Netherlands Yearbook for the History of Art 2010, co-edited with Herman Roodenburg). She is currently working on a book-length study of early responses to Rembrandt's prints, including a chapter on Thomas Wilson, author of the second catalogue raisonné of Rembrandt's etchings published in English (1836) and mayor of Adelaide, South Australia, in the 1840s.