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Rembrandt, A Bearded Man in a Cap

Key facts
Full title A Bearded Man in a Cap
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Date made late 1650s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 78 × 66.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1844
Inventory number NG190
Location Room 22
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Bearded Man in a Cap

This melancholy image of an old man lost in thought is one of a group of studies made by Rembrandt in the 1650s. They were not portraits of individuals – the identity of the sitter wouldn‘t have been considered relevant, either to the artist or the person who bought the painting. They were known as tronies (literally ’heads‘) and represented a type of person rather than an individual.

This painting used to be known as ’A Jewish Rabbi', probably because his divided, square-cut beard and his exotic hat, which was not typical of everyday dress at the time, suggest that he might be Jewish. But the title was given in the nineteenth century and there is no evidence that the man depicted was a rabbi. In fact, the same man seems to have sat as a model in several other works made during this period, and the hat was probably a studio prop.

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