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Rembrandt van Rijn pursued self-portraiture more than any other artist in the Dutch Golden Age. Here he has portrayed himself as a self-assured young man, engaging his audience with a direct gaze. His eyes are shaded by the undulating brim of his beret, revealing as much as concealing his exchange with the viewer. Situated within an oval framing device, Rembrandt wears old-fashioned attire, including a fur-trimmed cloak (or tabbaard) and black velvet beret, which associates this image with the pictorial tradition of the scholar and the university city of Leiden.

This painting has a remarkable history. Shortly after Rembrandt executed this work, another artist from the workshop overpainted it, transforming it into a fanciful tronie, or character study, of an older figure wearing a Polish-styled costume. Several restoration campaigns in the mid- and late twentieth century, concluding in 2000, removed the overpaint and restored the work to its (current) original state.

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