Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rembrandt and the Darkness

It’s been quite a while since I had the opportunity to look at a painting by Rembrandt close up and personal, but last week, quite unexpectedly, I ran into one, in an art gallery.

I’ve always viewed Rembrandt’s paintings with curiosity and respect, from the distance where the seemingly glacial veneer of his brush met me, halfway (or so I thought) in what appeared to be a rather forced  intellectual dialogue, akin to a conversation carried out of a social obligation.

Last week, on an icy winter day, I found myself in front of the Portrait of an anonymous musician and my old opinions of Rembrandt slowly disintegrated.

I was struck by the smoky, pitch-dark black of the musician’s doublet and the enigmatic aura it projects onto the viewer. Fused darkness, all encompassing, drawing us in. Inescapable.

I was equally carried away by the white froth of the ruffs, working my way up towards the eyes of the musician, who gazes back at us, with a look that’s both sensual and anxious.

However, the focal point of the painting appeared to me to be the paper roll with the musical notes that the musician holds carefully, as one would hold an offering.

A question insinuated itself: and the musical sketch inside the paper roll, whatever became of it?

It must be, I thought, an unfinished tune, to which we are compelled to come back, again and again, once we have run out of words. 

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. 

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