Rembrandt and the Female Nude

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Amsterdam University Press, 2006 - Art - 448 pages

Rembrandt’s extraordinary paintings of female nudes—Andromeda, Susanna, Diana and her Nymphs, DanaŽ, Bathsheba—as well as his etchings of nude women, have fascinated many generations of art lovers and art historians. But they also elicited vehement criticism when first shown, described as against-the-grain, anticlassical—even ugly and unpleasant. However, Rembrandt chose conventional subjects, kept close to time-honored pictorial schemes, and was well aware of the high prestige accorded to the depiction of the naked female body. Why, then, do these works deviate so radically from the depictions of nude women by other artists? To answer this question Eric Jan Sluijter, in Rembrandt and the Female Nude, examines Rembrandt’s paintings and etchings against the background of established pictorial traditions in the Netherlands and Italy. Exploring Rembrandt’s intense dialogue with the works of predecessors and peers, Sluijter demonstrates that, more than any other artist, Rembrandt set out to incite the greatest possible empathy in the viewer, an approach that had far-reaching consequences for the moral and erotic implications of the subjects Rembrandt chose to depict.

††††††††††† In this richly illustrated study, Sluijter presents an innovative approach to Rembrandt’s views on the art of painting, his attitude towards antiquity and Italian art of the Renaissance, his sustained rivalry with the works of other artists, his handling of the moral and erotic issues inherent in subjects with female nudes, and the nature of his artistic choices.††

 

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Page 333 - David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
Page 114 - Susanna sighed, and said, I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death unto me: and if I do it not, I cannot escape your hands. It is better for me to fall into your hands, and not do it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
Page 333 - And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house : and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
Page 114 - Then Susanna sighed, and said, I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death unto me: and if I do it not, I cannot escape your hands.
Page 79 - As soon as Perseus saw her there bound by the arms to a rough cliff — save that her hair gently stirred in the breeze, and the warm tears were trickling down her cheeks, he would have thought her a marble statue — he took fire unwitting, and stood dumb.
Page 312 - If the nude" says Professor Alexander, "is so treated that it raises in the spectator ideas or desires appropriate to the material subject, it is false art and bad morals.
Page 312 - ... faltering. We are bothered because the various parts of the body cannot be perceived as simple units and have no clear relationship to one another. In almost every detail the body is not the shape that art had led us to believe it should be.
Page 311 - To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word "nude," on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed.
Page 75 - ... and the story ends with the pious exclamation, " from which devill and all other devills defend us, good Lord ! Amen." We have spoken of the collections of tales, which, at the end of the sixteenth and...
Page 311 - To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes and the word implies some of the embarrassment which most of us feel in that condition. The word nude, on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone.

About the author (2006)

Eric Jan Sluijter is professor of the history of Renaissance and early modern art at the University of Amsterdam. Currently he is visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

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