What is immediately striking about this painting is how coarsely it is painted. You have to take distance from some parts in order to see what exactly is represented.Rembrandt painted The Jewish Bride (ca. 1665) late in his career, at a stage when he freed himself from all convention. He moulded his paint, scratched in it with his brush handle and smeared it with a palette knife like a rough and ready oaf. Two hundred years later, Vincent van Gogh was moved by the intimacy of the painting, which shows a loving moment between a man and a woman. It makes us feel as though we are secretly witnessing a very personal moment that is actually none of our business.
We see a couple, with the man touching the woman lovingly. They are dressed in exotic clothes from a different period to that of Rembrandt. The couple are absorbed in the moment and in one another. We now know that the painting is a depiction of the biblical story of the married couple Isaac and Rebecca. They go to live in a foreign country, where Isaac pretends to be Rebecca’s brother, so that he will not be killed and his beautiful wife will not fall into the hands of soldiers.
From close up, it looks messy, but if you step back a bit the painting comes to life
The palette knife as paintbrush
Rembrandt was famous in his own day and was sometimes maligned for his coarse style. In The Jewish Bride (ca. 1665), he crosses all the boundaries. Like some artists before him, he moulded his paint, but Rembrandt goes even further. Here, he has applied daubs of paint to depict Isaac’s wide, golden sleeve. He also scratched in the wet paint with the handle of his paintbrush or with a stylus. As if that wasn’t enough, he also used a palette knife. We can see the knife marks in Isaac’s cape, the bottom of his sleeve and the middle of Rebecca’s dress.
From a distance, the daubs of paint take on the form of real clothing.
Vincent van Gogh
Much later, Vincent van Gogh was to become famed for his coarse brushstrokes, like those of Rembrandt. In his letters about The Jewish Bride, however, he talks only about the intimacy of the work.
In portraying this scene, most artists usually painted the king spying in the background. Rembrandt, however, makes his viewers the spies.
Looking through a telephoto lens
Despite these coarse techniques, Vincent van Gogh was right: people looking at the work immediately sense that it is about intimacy. We are allowed to peep over Rembrandt’s shoulder at a loving moment, as if we are looking through a telephoto lens. Rembrandt did this two hundred years before photography was invented. Maybe this is why the work still looks so modern to us today.
Over het schilderij
- The Jewish Bride, ca. 1665 - 1669
- Oil on Canvas, 121.5 x 166.5 cm
- Permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum
On display at the ‘Late Rembrandt’ exhibition will be more than a hundred works created during the last phase of Rembrandt’s life. To get you in the mood, here are twelve works included in this spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
The Syndics, 1662
A meeting of five important inspectors of the Amsterdam drapers’ guild behind a table. Rembrandt turned this meeting into a visually exciting scene.Read more
Self Portrait with Two Circles, ca. 1665-1669
Rembrandt made many self-portraits during his career. What makes this one so notable is his ruthless honesty in portraying himself.Read more
Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, 1654
This is one of the most famous paintings hanging in Louvre. Here we see a beautiful young woman bathing. She has just read a letter and now finds herself in a dilemma.Read more
The Jewish Bride, ca. 1665
What you immediately notice about this large painting is Rembrandt’s rough application of paint. In this work, Rembrandt broke with all conventions of the day by smeering on and scratching through the paint.Read more
The Family Portrait, ca. 1665
‘The Family Portrait’ has not travelled since 1956. Just for this once, it is on loan to the Rijksmuseum especially for this exhibtion.Read more
A Woman bathing in a Stream, 1654
Here we see an alluring woman wading through the water while slowly lifting the hem of her dress. But who is this beauty?Read more
Recumbent Lion, ca. 1660-1665
Rembrandt preferred to draw lifelike representations of things he saw around him in real life. This lion is a good example.Read more
A Young Woman sleeping, ca. 1654
This drawing of a woman taking a quick nap is very typical of Rembrandt: an artist who was always recording the little scenes in his everyday life.Read more
Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph, 1656
When painting this Biblical story about Jacob, Rembrandt chose an unexpected moment that must have been a surprising choice for viewers of his day.Read more
Titus at his Desk, 1655
Rembrandt made clever use of painting techniques to evoke a sense of endearment when viewing this work in which we can recognise his own son.Read more
The conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis, ca. 1661-1662
In this painting, Rembrandt made use of a clever and entirely new technique to tell a story.Read more
Portrait of Frederick Rihel on Horseback, ca. 1663
As an artist, Rembrandt was familiar with the rules of portraiture but he pushed the boundaries whenever possible.Read more