CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rembrandt and the face of Jesus

Exhibition: 1 August - 30 October 2011

From the museum website, 27 July 2010

For Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), the greatest painter, draftsman and printmaker of the Dutch Golden Age, the portrayal of biblical themes was a central preoccupation and one through which the artist introduced challenging innovations. The boldest of these came in mid-career, when Rembrandt introduced a radical shift in the traditional image of Jesus that was based on conventions that reached back to antiquity.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Musée du Louvre in Paris are organizing Rembrandt and the face of Jesus, an exhibition that examines this remarkable change through some 23 paintings, 29 drawings, and nine prints assembled from public and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Among the works will be a series of panel paintings of a single model representing Jesus, three of which were mentioned in an inventory of Rembrandt’s home and studio conducted in July 1656. These included two paintings, each called Head of Christ by Rembrandt, and a third identified as a Head of Christ, from life, that was found in a bin in the studio awaiting use as a model for a New Testament composition. Seven of the original eight works created by Rembrandt and his pupils will be reunited for the first time (the eighth is now lost). This exhibition examines the significance of these bust-length portraits, which feature a presumably Jewish model, and how their subject figures in Rembrandt’s other works, while also exploring issues of attribution derived from the artist’s collaboration with students and apprentices in his workshop.

The exhibition will be organized into three sections: a prologue, the central section including the series of painted heads of Christ accompanied by related works, and an epilogue in which Rembrandt’s new image of Christ continues to find expression in his own works and that of his studio and his students. In addition to the panel paintings representing Jesus — one of which is in Philadelphia’s John G. Johnson Collection, and another in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts — highlights of the exhibition include such important works as Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, 1644 (London, National Gallery), Supper at Emmaus, 1648 (Musée du Louvre), and Head of a Young Jewish Man, 1661 (Fort Worth, Kimball Art Museum).

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, Rembrandt and the face of Jesus, published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (a French-language edition will be published by the Musée du Louvre).

The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée du Louvre, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. It will be on view at the Musée du Louvre, from April to July 2011, the Philadelphia Museum of Art from August through October 2011, and at the Detroit Institute of Arts from November 2011 to February 2012.

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