A case study of light and dark

A young Rembrandt proves himself...

By The Kremer Collection

The Kremer Collection

Bust of an old man with turban (1627 - 1628) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van RijnThe Kremer Collection

From the collector...

George Kremer calls "Bust of an old man with turban" (ca 1627 - 1628) by Rembrandt van Rijn "a study of light", as
the artist here studies the incidence of light. The light comes from somewhere
upper left behind the man, lluminating directly: the goldthread on the turban, the blood flow thru the right ear, the wrinkly old skin, the scarf around the old man's neck
and on his shoulder, catching the tip of the feather as well as the right side of his
nose. And indirectly by the reflections from the back wall (which is left
undefined): the
turban below the clasp,  the left
cheek, his
clothing & the ridge
of the nose.

Illuminating the turban by using the so called "Impasto" technique whereby paint is laid on an area of the surface thickly, so that the brush strokes are visible.

The light catches the tip of the feather...

One clearly sees the light on the shoulder and scarf...

We can see that this is an old man by the wrinkles in his skin and forehead. Note both the fold of the skin near the ear and the pinkish ear.

Rembrandt also shows us the light reflected off the wall onto the old man's left side: turban, cheek and shoulder. Note also the left ridge of his nose

Suggestive art...

If one looks at the clasp that
holds the feather at close range, you will see a few dabs of paint, mostly yellow
and a bit of red, the meaning of which is not immediately clear.

Only when you zoom out and step back, we can see that by suggesting form and color, it becomes a wholly convincing clasp adorned with a red ruby (?). This amazing skill suggests a great master!

Shades of gray...

When looking at the man's robe
up close, you see different many different tonalities of grey and brown.
Combining the interplay of direct light and indirect light.

Again when we step backward (zoom out), we see a convincing and exciting composition! Not just a robe, but a robe with a body underneath!


At only 21 years of age, Rembrandt shows that he possesses great
powers of observation and painting skills and even though this panel measures only 26.5
x 20 cm, there is a lot to discover!

Credits: All media
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