In the seventeenth century, African men – then known as Moors – were rarely depicted. And if they were, it was usually as servants in portraits. But Rembrandt painted them as subjects in their own right.
Rembrandt painted the men in very thin layers of paint. Although he depicted their heads, like the white shawl, in great detail, many other parts are only sketchily painted. Presumably, Rembrandt’s main interest was in the exotic heads and how he could represent them with a very limited palette.