Counterpoint: Rembrandt's precursors and models

Rembrandt was around twenty-three when he painted the Pilgrims at Emmaus (Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André), and for the young prodigy the depiction of the life of Christ would become a lifelong quest. He represented the successive episodes of Jesus’ ministry and his return among the living after his death at the hands of the Romans, using a variety of novel techniques to explore the New Testament’s narrative, dramatic and theatrical possibilities, yet remarkably never without allusions to his predecessors. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (Milan) gave him the example of a majestic vision steeped in classical culture—while the Dutch master often showed Jesus in nature amidst his disciples. Rembrandt was interested in depicting Jesus’ relations with those who listened to him or sought his downfall, and in doing so, rose to the challenge of painting Jesus’ teaching and its effects.