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Final encounter

The portrait below shows Rembrandt in the final year of his life, when he was 63. What has changed from his earlier self portrait above? What messages do you read now from his eyes and mouth, and from his clothes and pose?

Rembrandt, 'Self Portrait at the Age of 63', 1669

Do you see sadness? Resignation? Weariness? Determination? Or something else? By this point, both his son Titus and Hendrickje, were dead, and his work was no longer as fashionable as it had once been.

Detail from Rembrandt, 'Self Portrait at the Age of 63', about 1669

Detail from Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 63,  1669 

Rembrandt made a number of self portraits during the final years of his life, paintings in which he seems to present himself for unflinching examination. He directs our focus towards his face, through the use of light and layers of heavily textured paint.

X-radiographs have shown that originally, Rembrandt painted himself wearing a much larger, white turban, and holding a brush in his right hand; both of these elements were then edited out, so that nothing distracts the viewer from a 'direct' encounter with the artist.

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