ABU DHABI 11 February 2019: Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired a rare oil sketch — Head of a young man, with clasped hands: Study of the figure of Christ, ca. 1648–56—by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), one of the most celebrated artists of the Dutch Golden Age.
Painted on oak panel in the Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands) and identified as the Master’s work in the 1930s, it belongs to a series of oil sketches referred to as Rembrandt’s Face of Jesus group. Head of a young man was purchased by Louvre Abu Dhabi in December.
This masterpiece is the first work by Rembrandt known to have been acquired for a public collection in the Gulf. It appeared recently in exhibitions at the Musée du Louvre, Paris; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Art; and Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. It will make its first appearance at Louvre Abu Dhabi in the exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection and the Musée du Louvre before joining Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection.
11 New Additions
The acquisition of this rare masterpiece follows the unveiling of 11 new additions to Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection in October 2018. In keeping with the museum’s mission to highlight cross-cultural connections in a variety of forms, last year’s acquisitions include a range of exquisite objects from around the world and the region, including a monumental Buddhist sculpture from China (11th-12th CE), four tapestries from French royal manufacturers depicting The Hunts of Maximilian, the Duke of Brabant, as well as a rare Ottoman horse armour (15th-16th CE).
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), commented: “Rembrandt is one of the most prominent figures in Western art history and this acquisition yet again highlights the remarkable quality of both Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection and its exhibitions programme. We look forward to seeing this work unveiled at the museum and confidently look to the future, as we continue to grow our collection and inspire cross-cultural understanding in visitors from all over the world.”
Dutch Golden Age
The Dutch Golden Age was a brief period during the 17th century when the new Dutch merchant republic, freshly independent from the Spanish Crown, was regarded as the most prosperous state in Europe. Worldwide trade led by the Dutch East India Company, combined with military advancements and new developments in art and science, gave the Low Countries (the coastal region of northwestern Europe, consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) an important advantage throughout Europe and the world. Major commissions brought Vermeer and Rembrandt to the forefront of a new artistic movement, in which Protestant workers developed new themes and iconographies depicting a more realistic daily life.
In Head of a young man, the face of the black-haired man seems to be both illuminated and rendered through large brushed gestures. The same model appears in a series of studies and works by Rembrandt that was created during the same period as the artist’s renowned Supper at Emmaus (Paris, Musée du Louvre, ca. 1648).
Head of a young man is one of the finest examples of Rembrandt’s seven surviving oil sketches from the Face of Jesus group. When viewed with the other surviving sketches, it reveals the way in which Rembrandt could find the best angle or profile to use light to portray Jesus “after life,” with the model probably coming from the local Jewish community.
The portrait and subject matter show a new representation in the Christian world. The clasped hands emphasise narrative not distinguishable at first glance. And Rembrandt chose to represent a man in prayer, rather than a king, expressing—in an ecumenical way—the humble humanity of man.
The exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection and the Musée du Louvre is co-curated by Blaise Ducos, Chief Curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings at the Musée du Louvre and Lara Yeager-Crasselt, Curator of The Leiden Collection and a specialist in 17th century Dutch and Flemish art. The exhibition will be on view from February 14 through May 18, 2019, at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Entrance to the exhibition is free with general admission and children under 13 years of age are free. For more information on the exhibition or ticket bookings, please visit or call Louvre Abu Dhabi at +971 600 56 55 66.