Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Aristotle with a Bust of Homer" by Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) Rembrandt is considered one of the greatest of all European painters and the greatest Dutch painter. Although his full name was Rembrandt van Rijn, is usually just referred to as Rembrandt. The period during which he lived and painted is known as the "Dutch Golden Age" He achieved some financial success in his younger years but his later life was marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. But he remained popular throughout his life and taught nearly every important Dutch artist.
His greatest paintings were portraits, self portraits, and scenes from the Bible. Rembrandt did many self-portraits, beginning in his youth and continuing through 1669, the year that he died. They form a kind of auto-biography
Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer
was painted in 1653 and had been commissioned by the Sicillan collector Antonio Ruffo. This was the first painting to sell for more than 1 million dollars. It was purchased in 1961 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 2.5 milion dollars. I seem to remember it hanging in the lobby of the museum, near the front door. Don't know if they still have it there.
This imaginary portrait shows Aristotle, looking a bit worn, at the bust of the legendary (maybe mythical) epic poet Homer. Aristotle is dressed to the nines, a medillion with Alexander the Great's picture hangs from the gold chain. A reminder, I guess, that Aristotle had been Alexander's tutor. Aristotle's opulance represents his worldly success and the simple, humble bust of Homer represents spiritual values. Aristotle seems to being lost in thought, perhaps meditating on what he gave up to attain his success.

Self Portrait -1640

Self-Portrait 1661

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