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Masterpiece Tour 2016: Self Portrait at the Age of 63

Rembrandt's 'Self Portrait at the Age of 63' is touring three UK venues throughout 2016. Learn more about the work and the story behind it
  1. Introduction
  2. 17th-century self portraits
  3. Rembrandt in 1669
  4. Rembrandt's technique
  5. Provenance and further reading

Introduction

Rembrandt produced some 80 self portraits – paintings, drawings, and prints – over the course of his lengthy career; from around the time he was starting out as an independent master in the late 1620s, and continuing until 1669, when he produced Self Portrait at the Age of 63. No artist before Rembrandt, and only few since, have surpassed this number and made self portraiture such a significant proportion of their life's work.

'Self Portrait at the Age of 63', painted in the final year of Rembrandt’s life, is among the very last works he finished. It is a work of sheer virtuosity: proof that with maturity his talent became all the more profound.

Rembrandt, ‘Self-Portrait at the Age of 63’, 1669 © The National Gallery, London
Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 63, 1669 © The National Gallery, London

Rembrandt has recorded with breathtaking honesty the crumpled skin of his face. Tantalising variations in light and shadow capture a quietly arresting psychological intensity. When face-to-face with this painting, it is difficult to escape a sense of the artist's presence transcending the centuries. For all its timeless allure, however, Rembrandt's picture is very much a product of the specific historical circumstances of the 17th century.

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