Overview

After learning the fundamentals of drawing and painting in his native Leiden, Rembrandt van Rijn went to Amsterdam in 1624 to study for six months with Pieter Lastman (1583–1633), a famous history painter. Upon completion of his training Rembrandt returned to Leiden. Around 1632 he moved to Amsterdam, quickly establishing himself as the town’s leading artist, specializing in history paintings and portraiture. He received many commissions and attracted a number of students who came to learn his method of painting.

Throughout his life Rembrandt was fascinated by the apostle Paul, perhaps because Paul’s writings were the most important source for Reformation theology, or perhaps because he personified the Christian ideal of grace received independently of merit. Sitting at a table in his prison cell, the apostle ponders the words he is about to write in the epistle that lies before him. The solemn expression of Paul’s strong features underscores the depth of his belief and sense of purpose in his mission to spread Christianity to the heathens. The sword visible above the book is as much the "sword of the Spirit," the term he used to describe the word of God in his letter to the Ephesians, as it is the symbol of his military prowess before his conversion and the sign of his eventual beheading and martyrdom. The gentle light that illuminates Paul’s head, hand, and epistle has no defined point of origin. By depicting Paul at half length rather than full length, Rembrandt has brought the viewer closer to the figure of the saint, whose intensity of expression is keenly felt.

Inscription

lower right on desk: Rembrandt f

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Johan van Schuylenburg, The Hague; (his sale, The Hague, 20 September 1735, no. 31); Backer. Pierre-Louis Éveillard de Livois [1736-1790], Angers;[1] (his estate sale, by Sentout, Angers, unknown date in 1791, no. 65); Gamba;[2] (his sale, by Paillet and Geoffroy, Paris, 17-18 December 1811, 1st day, no. 26, bought in); purchased soon after this sale by Ferdinando Marescalchi [1754-1816], Bologna.[3] Sir George Hayter [1792-1871], London, by 1841;[4] (his sale, Christie & Manson, London, 3 May 1845, no. 82, as Portrait of Cornelius Von Schrevellier [Schrevellius Translater(sic) of Homer); (Nieuwenhuys).[5] James-Alexandre, comte de Pourtalès-Gorgier [1776-1855], Paris; (his sale, at his residence, Paris, 27 March-4 April 1865 [this lot 31 March], no. 182); purchased by (Otto Mündler, Paris) for Ivor Bertie Guest, 1st baron Wimborne [1835-1914], Canford Manor, Dorsetshire.[6] (Arthur J. Sulley & Co., London); Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, by 1912; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1841
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1841, no. 71, as Portrait of Cornelius Pietersz Hooft.
1969
Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art [Commemorating the Tercentenary of the Artist's Death], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, no. 17, 27, repro.
2005
Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005, no. 2, repro.
2005
Rembrandt's Saint Bartholomew, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, 2005-2006, no cat.

Bibliography

1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 9(1842):800, no. 30.
1868
Vosmaer, Carel. Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn, sa vie et ses œuvres. The Hague, 1868: 308.
1873
Blanc, Charles. L'Oeuvre de Rembrandt. 2 vols. Paris, 1873: 2:291.
1877
Vosmaer, Carel. Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn: sa vie et ses oeuvres. 2nd ed. The Hague, 1877: 359, 561.
1885
Dutuit, Eugène. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt: catalogue historique et descriptif; supplément à l'Oeuvre complet de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885: 7, 19, 49, 60, 69.
1888
A Catalogue of the Pictures at Canford Manor in the Possession of Lord Wimborne. Edinburgh, 1888: 63-64, no. 154.
1893
Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: Sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps. Paris, 1893::450, 555.
1894
Michel, Émile. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. 2 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. New York, 1894: 2:132, 237.
1897
Bode, Wilhelm von, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. 8 vols. Translated by Florence Simmonds. Paris, 1897-1906: 5:29-30, 174, no. 382, repro.
1899
Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899: 82, 140.
1906
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906: repro. 308, 403, 420.
1907
Bell, Malcolm. Rembrandt van Rijn. The great masters in painting and sculpture. London, 1907: 78-79, 124.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 6(1916):124, no. 178.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 6(1615): 102, no. 178.
1907
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. New York, 1907: 308, repro.
1907
Thieme, Ulrich, and Felix Becker, eds. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 29(1935):266.
1908
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. 3rd ed. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1908: repro. 384, 561, 584.
1909
Rosenberg, Adolf. Rembrandt: Des Meisters Gemälde. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 2. Stuttgart und Leipzig, 1909: repro. 384, 561.
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, no. 37, repro.
1913
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt, reproduced in over five hundred illustrations. Classics in Art 2. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. 2nd ed. New York, 1913: repro. 384.
1914
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. The Art of the Low Countries. Translated by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer. Garden City, NY, 1914: 248, no. 72.
1921
Rosenberg, Adolf. The Work of Rembrandt. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Classics in Art 2. 3rd ed. New York, 1921: 384, repro.
1921
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt: wiedergefundene Gemälde (1910-1922). Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 27. Stuttgart and Berlin, 1921: 384, repro.
1922
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. The Henry Goldman Collection. New York, 1922: no. 14.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as by Rembrandt.
1923
Meldrum, David S. Rembrandt’s Painting, with an Essay on His Life and Work. New York, 1923: 202, pl. 400.
1927
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "The Henry Goldman Collection." Art News 25 (May 1927): 16-17, repro.
1930
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Rediscovered Rembrandt Paintings." The Burlington Magazine 57, no. 333 (December 1930): 266.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Edited by Wilhelm Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 62-63, repro.
1931
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931: no. 127, repro.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Gemälde, 630 Abbildungen. Vienna, 1935: no. 612, repro.
1935
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt Schilderijen, 630 Afbeeldingen. Vienna, 1935: no. no. 612, repro.
1936
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. New York, 1936: no. 612, repro.
1942
Bredius, Abraham. The Paintings of Rembrandt. 2 vols. Translated by John Byam Shaw. Oxford, 1942: no. 612, repro.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 6, no. 655.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 44, repro.
1956
Benesch, Otto. "Worldly and Religious Portraits in Rembrandt’s Late Art."The Art Quarterly 19 (Winter 1956): 338-340, 343, fig. 3.
1960
Goldscheider, Ludwig. Rembrandt Paintings, Drawings and Etchings. London, 1960: 180, no. 101, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963: 313, repro.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 110.
1966
Bauch, Kurt. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966: vii, 12, no. 223, pl. 221.
1968
Gerson, Horst. Rembrandt Paintings. Amsterdam, 1968: 378, no. 295, repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 97, no. 655, repro.
1969
Bredius, Abraham. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Revised by Horst Gerson. 3rd ed. London, 1969: no. 612, repro.
1969
Haak, Bob. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, His Time. Translated by Elizabeth Willems-Treeman. New York, 1969: 298-299, no. 497, repro.
1969
National Gallery of Art. Rembrandt in the National Gallery of Art: Commemorating the tercentenary of the artist's death. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1969: 27, no. 17.
1970
Benesch, Otto. Otto Benesch Collected Writings. 2 vols. Edited by Eva Benesch. London and New York, 1970: 1:193, fig. 158.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 286-287, no. 655, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 283, no. 374, color repro.
1976
Trafalgar Galleries. In the light of Caravaggio. Exh. cat. Trafalgar Galleries, London, 1976: 21-22, repro.
1977
Trafalgar Galleries. Old Master Paintings. Exh. cat. Trafalgar Galleries, London, 1977: 62-63, repro.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 70-71, pl. 55.
1982
Halewood, William H. Six Subjects of Reformation Art: A Preface to Rembrandt. Toronto, 1982: 118, 120, fig. 73.
1984
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: Zijn leven, zijn schilderijen. Maarssen, 1984: 310, no. 351, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 283, no. 368, color repro., as by Rembrandt van Ryn.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 331, repro.
1985
Schwartz, Gary. Rembrandt: His Life, His Paintings. New York, 1985: 310, 322, no. 351, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt: das Bild des Menschen. Translated by Renate Renner. Stuttgart, 1986: 528, no. 615, repro.
1986
Guillaud, Jacqueline, and Maurice Guillaud. Rembrandt, the human form and spirit. Translated by Suzanne Boorsch, et al. New York, 1986: no. 615, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 313, fig. 468.
1986
Tümpel, Christian. Rembrandt. Translated by Jacques and Jean Duvernet, Léon Karlson, and Patrick Grilli. Paris, 1986: 339-340, no. 468, repro.
1991
The Revell Concise Bible Dictionary. Tarrytown, N.Y., 1991: 764, repro.
1991
Martz, Louis L. From Renaissance to Baroque: essays on literature and art. Columbia, Missouri, 1991: 34-35, fig. 13.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 241-247, color repro. 243.
1996
Timken Museum of Art. Timken Museum of Art: European works of art, American paintings, and Russian icons in the Putnam Foundation collection. San Diego, 1996: fig. 2.
1999
White, Christopher, and Quentin Buvelot. Rembrandt by Himself. Exh. cat. National Gallery, London; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. New Haven, 1999: 213, fig. 81b.
2005
Preti-Hamard, Monica. Ferdinando Marescalchi (1754-1816): un collezionista italiano nella Parigi napoleonica. 2 vols. Collana di Saggi, studi, richerche, i figli di Mercurio. Bologna, 2005: 1:fig. 48; 2:131-132.
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Peter C. Sutton. Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Chicago, 2005: 74-77, repro. 75.
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Anne T. Woollett, and Peter C. Sutton. Rembrandt's Apostles. Exh. cat. Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, 2005: repro. 12, 13-19.
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., Peter C. Sutton, and Anne T. Woollett. "Saints as Men: Rembrandt's New Testament Portraits." Bible Review Magazine Spring (2005): repro. 26, 28.
2008
Vergara, Alexander. Rembrandt, pintor de historias. Exh. cat. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008: no. 36, 202, repro. 203.
2011
Keyes, George S., Tom Rassieur, and Dennis P. Weller. Rembrandt in America: collecting and connoisseurship. Exh. cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Cleveland Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts. New York, 2011: 152-154, fig. 84.
null
Proni, Monica. "Per la ricostruzione della quadreria del Conte Ferdinando Marescalchi (1753-1816)." Antologia di Belle Arti. Studi sul neoclassicismo 1, nos. 33-34 (1988): 33-41.

Conservation Notes

The original support is a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric. Triangular fabric inserts have been added to the upper left, lower left and lower right corners. The two inserts in the lower corners appear to be cut from one fabric, which is coarser than the original fabric, and the one in the upper corner is from a third fabric, which is slightly finer than the original. The bottom corner inserts appear much lighter in the X-radiograph, indicating they were prepared with a ground consisting of denser pigments than the original and they may have been cut from a previously painted composition. The support and inserts have been lined and the tacking margins have been removed. No cusping is visible.

The original canvas was prepared with a brownish quartz-based ground, of the type that is thought to be specific to Rembrandt and his workshop.[1] A faint white area in a roughly oval form is visible in the X-radiographs. [2] In the lower part of the painting, where the oval shape is most clearly visible, it is significantly narrower than the present confines of the composition, though it extended beyond the top and bottom edges of the current canvas.

A number of artist’s changes were observed in the X-radiographs and during microscopic examination. The painting seems to have been executed in two stages. In some areas of the painting cross-sections show an intervening layer typical of varnish or "oiling out" between the first and second stages.[3] Initially the apostle’s elbow rested on a book lying on an inclined lectern and the background to the right was laid out with buff-colored paint. Significant revisions carried out in the second stage replaced the lectern with a flat surface and introduced the arm of the chair on which the saint leans his elbow. The sword at the right also may have been introduced at this stage.

Paint was applied thinly in dark passages and thickly in light passages, with brushes and a palette knife. Flesh tones are heavily impasted and were blended wet-into-wet. Severe abrasion in thinly painted passages has exposed the ground layer, and thicker passages are moderately abraded. Discolored varnish and inpainting were removed during a conservation treatment that was completed in 2002. Early restorations had altered the original background, introducing forms that vaguely suggested architectural features. Removal of old repaint returned the background to the original simple wall. Paint on the front of the lectern, including the signature, is not original; microscopic examination confirms that it was applied over age cracks. This repaint was not removed, but was retained for historical documentation.[4]

 

[1] The ground was analyzed by Karin Groen using cross-sections and energy dispersive X-ray analysis (see Karin Groen, "Grounds in Rembrandt's Workshop and in Paintings by His Contemporaries," in Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 4, Self-Portraits, ed. Ernst van de Wetering [Dordrecht, 2005], 666–667). Groen studied the grounds on 153 paintings by Rembrandt and his workshop. She also studied sixty paintings created in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century by artists who were not associated with Rembrandt and his workshop and numerous other Dutch paintings that originated outside Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. She found quartz only in the paintings from Rembrandt and his workshop.

[2] In the 1995 catalogue of the National Gallery of Art’s Dutch paintings collection, the white oval shape was mistakenly identified as a "moderately thick, off-white ground." Cross-sections of the recto analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department during the conservation treatment on the painting in 1999–2002, however, did not reveal differences in the ground layers within and without the oval shape visible in the X-radiographs. It is possible that the X-ray dense material is on the reverse, hidden beneath the lining fabric (cross-sections on file with the NGA Scientific Research department).

[3] Cross-sections were analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department (see report dated October 3, 2002, which summarizes the revisions to the painting, in NGA Conservation department files) and Karin Groen, "Grounds in Rembrandt's Workshop and in Paintings by His Contemporaries," in Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 4, Self-Portraits, ed. Ernst van de Wetering (Dordrecht, 2005) 318–334, including the Analytical Table on page 324.

[4] The paint was analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department using cross-sections (see report dated October 2002 in NGA Conservation department files).

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