Rembrandt, Artistic Authority Reflection –– JN

Rembrandt, “Self Portrait in Painter’s Costume” c. 1660-62. (Westermann, 156)

Westermann’s framework for understanding Rembrandt’s self portrait is that of the overall “Dutch pictorial culture.” Within this pictorial culture, he notes that artists called attention to their work through signatures or self-portraits, an example being this one of Rembrandt. However, unlike other artists, Rembrandt was extreme in the number of self-portraits he produced, “almost two self-portraits per year of his career” (157).

In this self-portrait of Rembrandt, Westermann describes him “in a pose apt for kings,” which goes along with the trend of “painters [posing] as gentleman or intellectuals” (158). Though the artists personal sense of self was portrayed in these portraits, they were dually intended for public viewing as ways of gaining attention as artists.

This method of gaining popularity was like artistic branding. “By representing himself as artisanal master of his pictorial world, Rembrandt advocated his own style of painting” (158). To contrast this concept with today, artist’s self portraits were like social media branding, in which you advocate yourself. Since artists were individuals who had to gain attention for commissions, by painting themselves––or branding themselves––and making their image known––like 17th century selfies, or social media feeds––they could gain a “following” of popularity. The way artists projected themselves, like with Rembrandt’s kingly figure whilst posing in a painter’s costume, showed their “artistic authority,” not just over the canvas but over the viewer.


One thought on “Rembrandt, Artistic Authority Reflection –– JN

  1. Great analysis here, I think there is a lot to be said about the self portrait form of art, because it is so interesting to see an artist’s perspective on themselves! I found it interesting how a self portrait was not only providing an example of one’s artistic capabilities, but it also was providing a newer sense of self identity, by promoting the recognition of one’s work. Painting a self portrait is a depiction of how you see yourself, and it provides a lens of self reflection that allows others to see through it. Your social media comparison is spot on, in my opinion, and I think it speaks to this idea of self reflections so well. Great choice of painting to analyze!


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