Rembrandt did over 100 self-portraits (I want to say of himself, but that would be redundant).
I was introduced to this factoid at the Norton Simon museum last night (which houses his well-known self-portrait above) and after a little more research this morning, have some of my own (self)-reflections:
The purpose behind Rembrandt’s vast number of self-portraits is one of the great mysteries of art history. The development and movement of them seems to tell a living narrative of the man, a sort of visual diary. Every detail in the painting is significant and intentional – each article of clothing and accessory, the background, the colors, the pose – communicating something deep and intimate from Rembrandt himself.
Over the years, his self-portraits move from mere outward descriptions and characterizations to penetrating self-analysis and self-contemplation; as if Rembrandt felt that he had to know himself if he wished to penetrate the problem of man’s inner life.
Knowing oneself: I think this is a quest that our world has lost sight of.
Do I know myself well enough to capture (in any form) the nuances and particulars of who I am? We can more easily look back on who we were or dream about who we will become, but am I aware and reflective of who I am in this very moment? And what I am doing to capture or catalogue or, at the very least, to notice this?
There are many big and obvious problems in our world today. What if, in order to heal even some of them, we need to spend more time at the micro-level of knowing and communicating our own selves?