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The image on display here is one of the most mysterious of all the self-portraits created by the artist, and at the same time one of the most beautiful in the history of Polish art. The painter showed himself as Ahasver, the controversial biblical Persian King , who granted freedom and numerous privileges to the Jews. Gottlieb is pictured as a young man of extraordinary oriental beauty. The dominating feelings, visible in his gaze and expression, are pensiveness and sorrow. His head, tilted in a grimace of suffering, and the blackness of his robe are in stark contrast with the visible attributes of the King’s power and wealth. The painting is also awe-inspiring in terms of the artist’s technique. The narrow palette of browns that it relies on creates a marvellous background for the subtle glint of the ruler’s coronet and earring. The captivating shadow and light effects which are the result of a hidden source of light which illuminates the golden fabric, as well as the amber hue blurring the contour of the figures, the lavish exotic robes and an atmosphere of mystery and concentration – are all elements of Rembrandt’s vision, which Maurycy Gottlieb adapted in his work.

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