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Born in Cologne, Nicolaes Ruts (1573–1638) was a merchant who traded with Russia, the source, no doubt, of the rich furs in which he posed for this portrait. Rembrandt’s likeness of him, perhaps the first portrait commission the artist received from someone outside of his own family, was painted presumably for Ruts’ daughter Susanna. A 1636 inventory of her property listed the picture of her father as “the portrait of Nicolaes Ruts made by Rembrant.” The dramatic contrasts in lighting and the detailed rendering of the varied textures are characteristic of Rembrandt’s early work, differing markedly from the warm, diffused light and broad brushwork that distinguish the Frick Self-Portrait executed over a quarter of a century later.

Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

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