The great Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) is known for a style that made masterful use of Baroque chiaroscuro in paintings of great psychological depth. His paintings take subjects from mythology and the Bible, and he is also celebrated for his work in portraiture and group portraits. In the early 17th century, Amsterdam was at the height of its prosperity as a major center of foreign trade in Europe. After moving to Amsterdam in 1631, Rembrandt painted many portraits of the city’s wealthy merchants, leaders of the church and government officials. This is one such work, and from the man’s apparel it can be assumed that he is one of the city’s wealthier citizens. The light that falls on the model’s face from the left shows his lively expression with rich contrasts of light and shadow and accentuates the impeccable skill and detail with which the artist depicts the texture of the skin and beard, the hair and lace collar and the black fabric of his clothes.
Today we know that this portrait was originally painted as a pair with a portrait of the man’s wife and the two paintings undoubtedly hung together in their home until they were eventually separated in the handling of the family’s estate by later generations. The wife’s portrait is the work titled Portrait of a Lady (1635) now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art in the U.S. And this work Portrait of a Man in a Broad-Brimmed Hat in the Kawamura collection is one of the few Rembrandt oil paintings in Japanese public collections, along with the work Self Portrait in the collection of the MOA Museum of Art and A Biblical or Historical Nocturnal Scene in the collection of the Bridgestone Museum of Art.
At the Kawamura, Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man in a Broad-Brimmed Hat is displayed separately in its own alcove to help museum visitors appreciate the different artistic style and flavor it has from the other modern paintings in the collection.