No artist has probed the potential of self-portraiture with greater tenacity and variety than Rembrandt. Over the course of his long career, he made over eighty self-portraits in oil, in chalk, in pen and ink and wash, and in etching. A large portion of these self-examinations were created while he was a young man and served to spread his fame, while advertising his abilities in portraiture and dramatic expression. But perhaps Rembrandt’s most soul-searching and moving images date from the end of his career; characteristically, his self-scrutiny was first considered carefully in etching before being pursued in painting.
Unpretentious, “Self-Portrait at a Window,” reflects a traditional portrait type used since the fifteenth century. Not striking a pose, the artist is caught in the middle of his most intimate and natural activity, etching on a plate resting on a folded piece of cloth on top of several books. In this particularly fine impression of the finished print, Rembrandt’s gaze rivets the viewer with a soul-searching energy that seems capable of fueling his late, great painted investigations.


  • Title: Self-Portrait Etching at a Window
  • Creator: Rembrandt Harmensz.van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
  • Date Created: 1648
  • Physical Dimensions: 156 × 130 mm (image/plate); 165 × 136 mm (sheet)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Etching, drypoint and burin on ivory laid paper
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livingston Endowment and Clarence Buckingham Collection, 2004.88
  • Artist: Rembrandt Harmensz.van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)

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