All that soft fall of fur dropping down his body, like a river of luxury, the hairs standing up in a gentle charge of electostatic, as if a hand has just sensuously travelled through them. Yet for all the sumptuousness, Rembrandt has mangaged to avoid any impression of idle opulence. With his fastidiously combed whiskers and sharp eyes, almost as sharp as those of the animals from whom the pelts were taken. Rut's glance is that of a slightly impatient intelligence. We almost want to say "Thanks for giving us a moment." But it's also solid, the deep shadow cast by the side of his head makes him thoughtful. The slightly pinked inner eyelids, as though he'd sacrificed his sleep for the good of the investors. No wonder JP Morgan bought the picture, for has there ever been a better portrait of the businessman as hero?
Portrait of an 83-year-old woman in National Gallery in London
No one looked harder at the topography of a middle-aged eyelid, the oiliness of a prosperous nose, the wateriness of the eye's virtreous membrane, the shiny tightness of a forehead pulled back into a linen cap. Look at the translucent fabric of her bonnet wings, their edges painted with a single stroke. Look at the eyebrow and droopy eyelid, done with jabbing strokes, the slightly unfocused melancholy, the mood of poignant vulnerability, everything softening the face of a tough old bird, wistful in the certainty. It's not long now before she gets to meet the great accountant in the sky. Not just a painter, then, but a psychologist of the human condition, don't you think?
Samson and Delilah Most artists did Samson as a naked hulk, slmuped in post-coital slumber.This is what Rembrandt does. Instead of nude beefacke, he dresses him. And, amazingly, makes him seem more, not less, vulnerable. All his paint wizardry is used on that knot, which seems to tie Samson to his lover and to his fate. Delilah lifts a lock of Samson's copper hair, ready to be shorn away, but as she does so, her other hand idly strokes his tresses. So in one gesture, Rembrandt gets to the heart of the story, the tradic inseparability of amorous tenderness and brutal betrayal.
Portrait of Maria Trip Below that milky pud face with its artless little smile, is a waterfall of stunning lace. Just a hint of the Trip millions.
He's seen Titian's portrait of the Italian poet, Ariosto, and he's gone and put himself in the same pose. The oversize, silky, mutton-chop sleeve on the aristocratic stone ledge, a picture which would be creamy with self-congratulation, were it not for a trace of wistfulness about his face, as if he can't quite believe all this success.
The Night Watch
Now, with his insatiable instinct for stripping off social masks, Rembrandt wasn't going to settle for that. So, he says, "Okay let's throw away the boardroom line-up.Let's just forget about the stale formula, and turn cardboard cutouts into real events, social dramas.
It was commissioned in 1642 by a company of cloth merchants and part-time militia men.
He changes the usual side-by-side format into a back-to-front action, so that the company of the officers and men are coming right at us, 3-D from the deep, dark doorway, right up to the picture frame and into our space, blazing with light.
Look at that spear poking into our space, Rembrandt knows that rough painting can actually convey the illusion of a three-dimensional object better than any literal decription.
It's the lieutenant who gets the more dazzling costume. Somehow, though, his showiness only strengthens the sense of command of his captain, costumed in black but blaze with a fiery red sash.
Banning Cocq (captain) is giving the signal to move, so his order falls as a shadow on the coat of his lieutenant. They're off, already in motion, the tassels are flying.
At first sight, The Night Watch seems merely chaotic, doesn't it? But actually it's a hymn to noisy energy contained by discipline. Freedom and order, miraculously held together, much as I think Rembrandt thought the Dutch themselves did. That's the secret of their success. That's the glory of Amsterdam.
Potrait of Saskia(Rembrandt's wife) One of the only paintings in which there's not a trace of a smile. Her head is turned in profile, the outline un-Rembrandtian in its enamel-like sharpness. But for the last time, he's loaded her with fabric and jewels. It's as if he can't stop drapping her, But Saskis pulls the fur cape around her, as if to ward off the chill of mortality. But it's too late.