Rembrandt (1606–1669) painted self-portraits throughout his long career. In artistic expression and technique, he was an innovator and an experimenter – with self-portraits, the artist had the unlimited opportunity to practise, as the model was inexpensive and always available! In his self-portraits, Rembrandt studies the line, the light, the shadowed facial features, and various textures such as fur hats, fabrics and hair. He also immersed himself in the portrayal of emotions and studied how emotions become visible in facial expressions and in gestures.
The Self-portrait, frowning on show succeeds in capturing the complex expression on the artist’s face. The expression is intensively attentive. The piercing gaze penetrates into the viewer of the painting. The furrowed brow communicates slight irritation – as if the artist had suddenly been disturbed by something or someone.
Studying Rembrandt’s self-portraits and experiencing their atmosphere also involves understanding their time and location. Many self-portraits feature headwear – like many artists, Rembrandt owned an immense collection of props and curios. The accessories featured in the self-portraits were sometimes old-fashioned already at the time of painting. Were the out-of-fashion accessories funny to the artist himself? Shapes and materials offered opportunities for technical experimentation. Sometimes the accessories also carry identifiable meanings. By the means of composition and costume, the artist created associations – painting himself wearing a 16th century costume, Rembrandt compares himself to such great masters of the 16th century as Titian and Raphael.
Self-portrait, frowning was received by the Sinebrychoff Art Museum as a donation in spring 2019. The donor honours the memory of his late wife and the art experiences he shared with her. In addition to this work, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum print collections also include another Rembrandt self-portrait and several other prints. The painting Monk Reading hanging opposite the Self-portrait, frowning, is the only painting by Rembrandt in Finland.”