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.


  • Title: Selfportrait
  • Creator: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
  • Date Created: 1630
  • Title in Swedish: Självporträtt
  • Signature: R...1630
  • Physical Dimensions: w120 x h155 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Rembrandt was a Dutch artist who produced paintings, drawings and etchings. He was born in Leiden as the eighth child of nine. He received his grounding in art under historical painter Jacob van Swanenburgh in Leiden and later Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam. In around 1625, Rembrandt set himself up as an independent master. He settled permanently in Amsterdam in 1631, becoming a much sought after portraitist, but he also painted historical and religious subjects. His great breakthrough came with the group portrait The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632, now in the Mauritshuis, The Hague). In 1642, he completed perhaps his most famous work, 'Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch'., better known as The Night Watch (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Rembrandt painted more self-portraits than any other known artist of his time, painting, etching and drawing 80 or so images of himself. Rembrandt married Saskia van Uylenburgh in 1634 and they had four children, although only one, Titus, reached adulthood. Saskia’s death in 1642 hit Rembrandt hard. His output fell dramatically, and for a time he stopped painting altogether, concentrating instead on drawing and making etchings. For various reasons he fell into financial difficulties that led to bankruptcy in 1656. In 1661–1662, he was commissioned to complete the wall-painting The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) for Amsterdam City Hall. For unknown reasons, the painting was taken down, trimmed and replaced with a work by another artist. Rembrandt died in 1669 in Amsterdam, a year after his son Titus.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on copper

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