Artibus et Historiae no. 10 (V)

1984, ISSN 0391-9064

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JAN BIAŁOSTOCKI - A New Look at Rembrandt Iconography

The article brings modifications to the author's study of 1957 (Münchner Jahrbuch der bild. Kunst) taking into account research done since then on the subject, especially studies by Christian Tumpel. It appears that the basic source of Rembrandt's imagery was the rich repertory of pictorial narrative produced by the German and Netherlandish graphic art of the 16th and the late 17th centuries. By relating several works of Rembrandt to their visual sources their actual subjects can be established. They often were created by the process of selection from large historical compositions, as Tumpel has shown.

Rembrandt concentrated however on such themes through which basic human emotional and ethical frames of mind could be expressed, and which were called in the 1957 study "encompassing themes" (Rahmenthemen). Problems of iconographic categories especially of genre versus history and allegory in Rembrandt's art are further discussed.

Although Rembrandt shared with his contemporaries the common emblematic language of signs, in his late works a silent expression of human feelings and thoughts is achieved.

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