(Forward) What Rembrandt Painted When He Painted Jews

Rembrandt's First Masterpiece

Rembrandt’s ‘Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (1629)/National Gallery of London


My article “What Rembrandt Painted When He Painted Jews” appears in the Jewish Daily Forward. Here’s a selection:

…When Lloyd DeWitt, chief curator at the Chrysler Museum of Art, in Norfolk, Virginia, and edited the exhibition catalog “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus,” saw the Morgan exhibit, he was impressed by Rembrandt’s fascination with the temple. “I’ve often thought it was just part of his early production, very much in keeping with the tone of the early Ecce Homo with its use of stereotypes, but having seen it again, I’m not sure it isn’t more sympathetic,” he said.

Rembrandt’s 1634 “Ecce Homo” depicts Jewish viewers mocking Jesus with stereotypically anti-Semitic features, while a later Rembrandt depiction of the same scene in 1655 shows a more sympathetic audience. The Judas painting, to DeWitt, has none of that negativity. “I think the reason it feels less negative than the ‘Ecce Homo’ print is the kind of exoticizing distance of the dark temple space, and the dark, emotionless, mysterious faces who are meant to be a foil or contrast to Judas,” he said. “In the ‘Ecce Homo,’ Rembrandt fits himself into a long tradition of exaggerated, unfortunate imagery. ‘Judas’ is much more original.”

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