Saturday, June 1, 2013

MWA XV: Rembrandt's Trip

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, one of the greatest art museums in the world, reopened its doors this year after a major building renovation. But for those who can't visit the museum, the organization has launched Rijksstudio, a website where you can download over 125,000 high-resolution images of works from the collection for personal or professional use. And it's all free. We're talking about masterpieces of Dutch art by Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Johannes Vermeer, and so on. The New York Times lauded them for this feat, and certainly it is monumental, in particular because of the number of images that were launched upfront. Although they are the first major European museum to do this on a grand scale, others in the U.S. have done this, as I've reported on this blog about the National Gallery of Art and the Yale Center for British Art. Other museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, offer high-resolution JPGs for PowerPoint presentations for free and offer free publication of images for academic purposes through ARTstor's Images for Academic Publishing initiative. But the Rijksmuseum's release of high-detailed images reinforces the ever-rising interest on the part of museums to ensure that if you are going to use an image of an object from their collection, then you should use the highest-quality image available, as color-corrected and authorized by the museum itself.

In recognition of this accomplishment, our Monthly Work of Art for June (seen here) is Portrait of a Young Woman, probably Maria Trip by Rembrandt van Rijn. This oil on panel painting is signed by the artist and dated 1639. I know this is sacrilegious to admit, but I've never been a huge fan of Rembrandt's work. I know this is typically because his brushstroke in his paintings is usually looser, which is often what people most admire about his work. Certainly he is a master of dramatic chiaroscuro. But there are works by Rembrandt that I do admire, frequently his portraits, and this one is an excellent example. I'm amazed by his handling of details, such as the intricacy of the lace and pearls, and the fine strands of her hair that crown the charmingly beautiful face of this woman. She practically glows in a spotlight that highlights not only her beauty but also her socio-economic status. Here is what the Rijksmuseum's curators have to say about this picture: "Maria Trip, daughter of one of Amsterdam's wealthiest merchants, was twenty when Rembrandt painted her portrait. The artist placed Maria against a stone arch and devoted particular attention to the reflected light, the fashionable dress and jewellery. The costly garments are trimmed with strips of gold lace and Maria is wearing a profusion of pearls."

No comments: