Prologue: early works

Curiously, one of the sources for Rembrandt’s portrayal of Christ came from engravings of the work of a great Catholic artist. It was Rubens, the virtuoso orchestrator of baroque Catholicism, who provided the Dutchman with the departure point for his Christ on the Cross (collegiate church of Saint-Vincent, Le Mas-d’Agenais, Lot-et-Garonne). Yet Rembrandt rejected the idea of Christ as beautiful in death, with an athletic anatomy based on ancient models. His Christ is a puny man already half-engulfed by the encroaching darkness, his gaunt, tense face showing the daring of its creator. It was Rembrandt’s ability to abandon established models that impressed other Dutch masters, including two of Rembrandt’s most brilliant contemporaries, Jan Lievens and Jacob Backer, who sought to rival him. This is the first time that these three Christs have been shown together.