Rembrandt preferred to draw lifelike representations of things he saw around him in real life. The lion is a good example of this: while other artists relied on paintings made by others, Rembrandt drew what he saw with his own eyes.
A lion is an appealing subject for artists. Rembrandt had long wanted to know what a real lion looked like. During all this time, he was referred to illustrations made by earlier artists who had never seen a lion either. At the age of 46, however, he got his chance: he saw a real lion in Amsterdam. He sketched this king of the jungle as he actually saw the animal and captured the powerful anatomy of the beast. He used this sketch for a famous etching of Hieronymus, a monk and church father who was unafraid of a wounded lion and saved its life.
What does a lion look like?
Even during his early career, Rembrandt was struck by the story of Hieronymus. As the story goes, Hieronymus was a simple monk living in Palestine who one day came across a wounded lion. Instead of fleeing, as his brothers did, he removed a thorn from the animal’s paw and remained with the lion until the wound healed. During the course of his life, Rembrandt made seven etchings about this subject. However, the problem had always been: what does a lion look like in real life? He was familiar with this animal only from how it had been portrayed by his artistic predecessors, and most of them had never seen a lion in real life either.
Rembrandt portrayed all the world’s idiosyncrasies, coincidences and shortcomings: from the ordinary to the exceptional
Over het schilderij
- Recumbent Lion, facing right (about 1660-1665)
- Pen and brown ink on brown paper, 122 x 212 mm
- Permanent Collection, 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