Rembrandt’s self-portrait is a relatively small painting, measuring just 12.2x15.5 cm. The base is copper plate covered with a layer of white lead completely overlaid with gold leaf. The portrait was acquired by Nationalmuseum in connection with the Rembrandt exhibition of 1956 and portrays the artist as a serious, quite melancholic young man. The face is modelled with fine, careful brushstrokes. The young man’s gaze is searching and concentrated. The portrait is dated 1630, when Rembrandt was 24 years old.
There are known to be five Rembrandt paintings on copper, three of which are on a gold leaf ground. In addition to the Nationalmuseum self-portrait, these are An Old Woman at Prayer in Salzburg and The Laughing Soldier in The Hague. The paintings are in a similar format and date from the same period.
There are major similarities in terms of lighting, expression and character between Nationalmuseum’s self-portrait and other early self-portraits. However, due to its small format and special base, this little self-portrait required more detailed brushstrokes than the larger portraits on panel and canvas.