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Self-portrait Leaning on a Stone SillEnlarge image

Self-portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639

Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch, 1606 - 1669
etching on laid paper
20.6 x 16.3 cm trimmed to platemark
Purchased 1951
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5830)

This magisterial image is a remarkable statement of Rembrandt's sense of self-worth. By this point in his career, the artist had established himself as an independent master and was enjoying tremendous success. Borrowing a format from Raphael and Titian, and dressed sumptuously in Renaissance-style clothes, Rembrandt positions himself squarely and confidently among the great pantheon of European artists. The significance of the skeleton in the shadows behind him has never been explained - is Rembrandt proposing his triumph over mortality through fame?

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