A lesson in looking at Rembrandt by Simon Schama
By his own admission, Simon Schama has only just finished feasting on the wonderful wine and food Mantua has to offer as he embarks on his talk. His thoughts may be clouded, but his famous enthusiasm and passion when speaking about art is unaffected.
Projecting visual aids, he illustrates 20 or so paintings and drawings by Rembrandt (some well-known, others more obscure) highlighting the attention to detail, the sculptural prowess and the revolutionary approach to composition that distinguished the Dutch master.
This lesson in how to look at Rembrandt takes place in the intimate setting of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria with its faded frescoes. On the 350th anniversary of the master's death, Schama pays homage to the painter that first caught his eye as a very young child and kicked off a life-long fascination with art.
Starting with the bare lines of a lesser-known drawing (a country road blanketed with snow), we are engagingly guided through more complex compositions such as the Self-Portrait at Kenwood House (the eyes that looked down at nine-year old Schama), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholas Tulp (a living meditation on dexterity), the Portrait of Jan Six (his subject posed between action and reflection in resplendent garb), The Night Watch (a paragon of animated composition), Susanna (fragility at the mercy of the male gaze), concluding with The Jewish Bride, a wonderfully textured homage to conjugal love that truly calls for an act of genius.