Plant of the Day

Sunday 30 April 2017

Tulip Week - Tulipa ‘Rem’s Favourite’ has been bred to look like a classic Remrandt tulip with purple and green veining over white. It is a modern cultivar with strong-growing, long-lasting flowers. Here it forms the punctuation point in a container at the end of the Long Border at Great Dixter, Sussex, UK.

Jill Raggett
Tests confirm painting is Rembrandt self-portrait

Scientific tests have confirmed that a painting donated to Britain’s National Trust by a wealthy supporter is a Rembrandt self-portrait worth tens of millions of pounds, the heritage body said Tuesday.

The portrait of the artist, wearing a cap with a white feather, was long thought to be the work of one of Rembrandt’s pupils and was credited as in the “style of” the 17th-century Dutch master.

But last year Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s leading Rembrandt expert, declared it genuine. The National Trust said tests on the paint, the signature and the wooden panel all confirm the authenticity of the portrait, which was painted in 1635, when Rembrandt was 29.

Cambridge University experts analyzed the cell structure of the wooden panel the portrait is painted on — poplar or willow, a type Rembrandt favored — and used X-rays to reveal changes to the composition over time, also typical of the artist. The pigments, including blue mineral azurite and blue cobalt, also were consistent with those used by Rembrandt.

“The varnish was so yellow that it was difficult to see how beautifully the portrait had been painted,” said David Taylor, paintings and sculpture curator at the National Trust. “Now you can really see all the flesh tones and other colors, as well as the way in which the paint has been handled — it’s now much easier to appreciate it as a Rembrandt.”

The painting was given to the trust in 2010 by the estate of Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, whose property-developer husband was a major collector of Dutch and Flemish art. It hangs in Buckland Abbey in southwest England, the former home of 16th-century seafarer Francis Drake.

By the late 1620s, Rembrandt was already a renowned artist, convinced of his own genius and “lustful for everything the world had to offer.” But his short period of early success was followed by grief and disaster. During his sixty-three years, not only did his dear wife, Saskia, die, but he also lost three sons, two daughters, and the two women with whom he lived. His popularity plummeted and, having wasted his fortune, he was forced to sell his home and art collection.

One of Rembrandt’s most famous works was The Return of the Prodigal Son, which he painted shortly before his death. The masterpiece is now displayed at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. There the museum guides do not refer to the painting as “the prodigal son,” but rather “the compassionate father.” Jesus told the story (Luke 15:11 – 32):

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ … The younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living… .“When he came to his senses, he said, … ‘I will set out and go back to my father.’…

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him… . ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him… . Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

Referring to this painting in his book Return of the Prodigal Son, author Henri Nouwen wrote, “As I look at the prodigal son kneeling before his father and pressing his face against his chest, I cannot but see there the once so confident artist who has come to the painful realization that all the glory he had gathered for himself proved to be vain.” Instead of the rich garments … he now wears only a torn under-garment covering his emaciated body.

Moving my eyes from the repentant son to the compassionate father, I see … glory that is hidden in the human soul and surpasses death.” Nouwen saw in the face of the father “an inner light, deeply hidden, but radiating an all-pervasive tender beauty.” He saw the expression of God’s tender heart for us.

As in several other Rembrandt paintings, the father of the prodigal son is a self-portrait, but not in the usual sense. Nouwen believed, “Here it is not Rembrandt’s face that is reflected, but his soul, the soul of a father who had suffered so many a death.

“Created in the image of God, Rembrandt had come to discover through his long, painful struggle the true nature of that image … the father crying tenderly, blessing his deeply wounded son, as if the father is saying, ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’

“Everything comes together here: Rembrandt’s story, humanity’s story, and God’s story. Time and eternity intersect; approaching death and everlasting life touch each other.” Sin and forgiveness embrace. The young Rembrandt had been a proud and prodigal son. Through suffering, he became the loving father.

-From A Faith & Culture Devotional, Kelly Monroe Cullberg & Lael Arrington