Cornelis Claesz Anslo was a rich Amsterdam shipowner and cloth merchant, and also a respected Mennonite preacher. He moved into a new house with his family in 1641, and commissioned the double portrait with his wife Aeltje Schouten on this occasion. The fact that the figures are seen slightly from above, and that the vanishing point is therefore relatively low, indicates that the picture was originally intended to be hung high. The fur trimming on the couple’s clothes and the handkerchief are signs of prosperity and wealth. However, a key concern was to present Anslo in his function as a preacher. His mouth is slightly open, he is pointing to the open book with the left hand, and turning to his wife, who is inclining her head a little, as a sign that she is paying attention. The essential elements of this scene, the book, faces and hands, are emphasized by the handling of light, while the remainder is plunged into monumental chiaroscuro. This impressive representation of speaking and listening is vivid evidence of the Reformation’s view that the word is superior to the image. A specific reference to the admonition specific to the Mennonites (based on Matthew 18, 15-20) is provided by the wick-trimmer that can be seen behind the candle. According to Picinello this symbolizes the “correctio fraterna”, the brotherly admonition “that frees the soul from the clinging slime of confusion as the wick-trimmer the candles from the dripping wax”. The fact that the subjects are presented in situations typical to their activity gives this double portrait its direct and lively effect. Rembrandt’s approach to this genre went well beyond the presentational forms current at the time.


  • Title: The Mennonite Preacher Anslo and his Wife
  • Creator: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
  • Date Created: 1641
  • Physical Dimensions: w207.6 x h173.7 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Claudia Banz Audio: © Tonwelt / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: Rembrandt has gone down in history as one of the greatest painters, printmakers and etchers in the whole of European art and the most important Dutch artist to date. Even at an early age he gained a very high reputation as a portrait painter and in his most active period, during the Dutch Golden Age, he executed a spectacular array of works. In 1627 he began to accept students in his big workshop and became master of several artists, including Carel Fabritius and Ferdinand Bol. Some years later he moved on to Amsterdam, where he started his professional career as a portraitist. His focus would always remain on portraiture, but he also created landscapes and narrative paintings. His style was initially quite 'smooth' and fine, later though it became 'rough' due to his variegated paint surfaces which gave a highly tactile quality to his paintings. He is also considered a master of chiaroscuro due to the contrasts of light and dark which so characterize his works. The themes he took up in his paintings served many artists as inspiration, during his lifetime but also after death. The last years of his life were dominated by serious poverty due to high debts. In 1656 he was even declared bankrupt. Rembrandt is best known for such works as 'The Night Watch' (1642) or 'The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp' (1631).
  • Artist Place of Death: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Artist Place of Birth: Leiden, Netherlands
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1606-07-15/1669-10-04

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