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Probably by Rembrandt, An Old Man in an Armchair

Key facts
Full title An Old Man in an Armchair
Artist Probably by Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Date made 1650s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 111 × 88 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Estate Duty and allocated to the National Gallery, 1957
Inventory number NG6274
Location Room 22
Collection Main Collection
An Old Man in an Armchair
Probably by Rembrandt

Some of Rembrandt’s most powerful paintings are of men and women immersed in thought, depicted with bold brushwork and dramatic, shadowy light effects. Slumped sideways across a chair, one hand gripping the wooden arm and the other resting lightly on his temple, this elderly man is in just such a mood. His eyes are cast down towards the floor, and the light which slants across his body from behind his left shoulder throws them into a deep shade.

This is not a portrait but a study of a ‘character type’ and Rembrandt has used it to experiment with a suggestive, sometimes quite rough, style of painting. The highlights on the left sleeve, for example, are depicted with only half a dozen very broad brushstrokes. This has led to doubts over its authenticity, but it is now believed that this highly innovative approach represents an important experimental step in Rembrandt’s development towards the rough manner of his later works.

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