Zoom Into a Laughing Rembrandt

Known for his contemplative self-portraits, the Dutch master also had a comic side

By Google Arts & Culture

With content from the J. Paul Getty Museum

Rembrandt Laughing (about 1628) by Rembrandt Harmensz. van RijnThe J. Paul Getty Museum

You know Rembrandt for his extensive series of profound and often melancholy self-portraits. But did you know the Dutch master of shadow also had a lighter side? Scroll on to explore this effusive early work.

Intently interested in the expression of human emotion, Rembrandt often used himself as his own model in his early years as an independent master in Leiden. In this small and freely painted work, he appears in the guise of a soldier, relaxed and engaging the viewer with a laugh.

For this sophisticated self-portrait, painted at age twenty-one or twenty-two, Rembrandt combines a study of character and emotion (known in Dutch as a tronie) with a rare jovial self-presentation. The lively, short brushwork in the face...

...and brisk handling of the neutral background convey a sense of spontaneity and immediacy.

This is one of a small number of paintings by Rembrandt from the late 1620s executed on copper. He signed it in the upper-left corner with his monogram of interlocking letters, "RHL" (Rembrandt Harmenszoon Leidensis), which he used only briefly, from late 1627 to early 1629.

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