Rembrant, a supreme humanist!

 REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
(b. 1606, Leiden, d. 1669, Amsterdam)Agatha Bas
Oil on canvas, 104 x 82 cm
Royal Collection, LondonAgatha Bas (1611-58) was a member of one of Amsterdam’s leading families, the middle daughter of Dirk Jacobsz. Bas, a director of the Dutch East India Company who had served as burgomaster of the city on several occasions. She married Nicholas van Bambeeck (1596 – 1661), a successful cloth merchant who was an immigrant from Flanders, when she was twenty-seven. Rembrandt had probably known Bambeeck for some time before he painted both his portrait and the companion portrait of Agatha. In 1631 Bambeeck was living in the Sintanthonisbreestraat, where Rembrandt was also staying in the house of the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh; both Rembrandt and Bambeeck invested in Uylenburgh’s business in 1640.The pair of canvasses depicting Bambeeck and his wife are superb examples of the accomplished and imposing portraits bathed in soft light which Rembrandt was painting in the years around 1640. He placed both husband and wife in illusionistic painted frames, an effect heightened by the cloak and glove seemingly hanging over the edge of the frame in Nicholas’s portrait, and the fingers of Agatha’s left hand which appear to project beyond the frame here. Unfortunately both paintings have been cut down at the top and sides, removing part of the painted frames and so weakening the trompe l’oeil effect. Originally the portraits would have been shown in arched ebony frames, echoing their painted counterparts, and so further merging painted appearances and reality. The paintings hung together until they were sold in London in 1814. Agatha Bas was bought in 1819 by Lord Yarmouth acting for the Prince Regent and so entered the Royal Collection. Nicolaes van Bambeeck was purchased by the Musée Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, in 1841.
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