Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rembrandt and Hals on Marriage

I loved these two images of marriage in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

This couple, portrayed by Rembrandt, chose to dress up as biblical figures for their portrait -- the title is "The Jewish Bride." Caravaggio used regular people (including himself) in biblical images.  But here's the biblical references are an overlay, a play to bring out the true focus, two real individuals in a marriage.  Amsterdam invents the portrait as a portrait, without required Catholic overtones of the work of the Roman painters of the same period.  I love this image.  His hand is across her heart, while she looks off in the distance.  But her fingers are on his hand, as if to say: "Don't move your hand. Stay here forever, so I can be close, while I dream."

Nearby is Frans Hals painting, "Portrait of a Couple in a Landscape," captures this couple (probably Isaac Abrahamsz Massa and Beatrix van der Laen) in an unusual portrait, so different from the formal portraits more typical of the time, where the couple would face each other, man on the left and woman on the right, in two separately framed paintings. Here Hals has the two together, relaxing in a landscape, she leaning on his shoulder.  And Beatrix, whose face is at the center of the painting, offers the most enchanting and captivating smile I think I have ever seen in a painting.  There are all kinds of symbols in the painting -- one of the plants was a believed aphrodisiac, while the other refers to male fidelity.  But the heart and soul of the painting is Beatrix's smile -- displaying a sense of well-being to be found in this private corner, with a view out to the a classical settled landscape.  All is well, says the painting.

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