JHOM - Life Cycle - Marriage - Rembrandt

Several titles have been proposed for this oil painting (c.1662) which is housed in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The most common name is The Jewish Bride, but is has also been related to such biblical characters as Rebecca and Isaac. What is accepted by all, however, is that the intimacy in the painting is overwhelming and deeply moving.


Writes art historian Helen Digby: "The couple in The Jewish Bride fill the canvas in a simple yet powerful composition. The man has his arm around his wife, a protective, affectionate gesture which also gives the painting a natural border. There is nothing in the dark background to detract from the charming scene, and the tenderness of the couple seems to be enhanced by the rich, warm textures and tones of their clothing. Vincent van Gogh was so overcome by this painting that he said he would give up ten years of his life just to be allowed to sit in front of it for a fortnight."[1]

The Dutch master (1606-1669) was responsible for many well-known works with Jewish content, among them scenes of Jewish wedding scenes, synagogues and biblical stories and characters. Art historian H.W. Janson writes that Rembrandt had a special sympathy for the Jews as "biblical heirs and the patient victims of persecution."[2] Other art critics find it more likely that he simply painted his friends and neighbors. We do know that during a particularly fecund period in his life, Rembrandt resided near the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, where he counted among his neighbors various artists and well-to-do merchants, among them several affluent Sephardic Jews whose portraits he painted.

Rembrandt's Jewish portraits serve as important historical documents. According to Rembrandt biographer Landsberger, "the Jewish fate, insofar as facial expression has ever mirrored it, has never been represented with such authenticity and such grandeur as in Rembrandt's Jewish portraits."[3]



[1] Helen Digby, Rembrandt, Brompton Books, 1995 [back]
[2] H.W. Janson, History of Art (Abrams,Harry Inc., 1962, 2001) [back]
[3] Franz Landsberger, Rembrandt: The Jews and the Bible, trans. from the German by Felix N. Geson (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1946) [back]

excerpted Rembrandt and the story of Purim
Bitter biblical moments captured on canvas
The reconciliation of David and Absalom: Paintings by two 17th-cent. Dutch painters

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