LOS ANGELES, CA.- The J. Paul Getty Museum
has put on view this week Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijns Saint Bavo in its East Pavilion paintings galleries at the Getty Center . The work, on loan from the Göteborgs Konstmuseum in Sweden , will be the first time it has been publicly displayed since its restoration at the Getty.
Saint Bavo, which will be on view until November 29th, will be placed near the Gettys own Rembrandt painting of St. Bartholomew. Both paintings were last seen together in the Gettys 2005 Rembrandts Late Religious Portraits exhibition, which included many of the powerful religious portraits that Rembrandt created toward the end of his life during a time of personal turmoil.
Painted between 1662 and 1665, Saint Bavo shows a bearded, middle-aged man who wears a red beret with a white ostrich feather and holds a falcon on his left hand. He stares into the distance with an abstract and vaguely melancholy expression which is characteristic of Rembrandts approach to the evocative portrayal of religious figures in the later phase of his career. Many of Rembrandts saints and apostles during this period, such as the Gettys St. Bartholomew (1661), include attributes from the medieval Catholic tradition, but are otherwise unrecognizable as holy figures. Although some scholars have disputed the identity of the subject in this painting, a number of attributes, such as the falcon and the plumed hat, support his identification as the medieval Dutch nobleman Bavo who converted to Christianity.
When the painting first arrived at the Getty in October 2008, it was covered with heavy layers of varnish and broad re-paints that partially obscured the artists descriptive brushwork and details of the saints costume. Mark Leonard, senior conservator in the Getty Museums Paintings Conservation Department, spent several months cleaning the painting and removing the old varnish and overpaints, eventually revealing the textured brushwork of the subjects face and clothing and the falcon he holds, as well as making more visible the horse and young page boy that were previously difficult to read in the paintings dark background.
Also on loan to the Getty Museum from a private collector is Rembrandts little-known Portrait of a Rabbi, painted about 1640-45. This painting will be displayed in the same gallery as Saint Bavo until March 2010. Throughout his career, Rembrandt painted and drew numerous contemplative elderly male subjects. In Portrait of a Rabbi, the rabbis chest and face is illuminated by a strong light, which is energetically modeled with expressive, textured brushstrokes. In contrast, the heavy folds of his gown and soft material of his hat are more loosely executed. Rembrandt was sensitive to Jewish tradition, and he sought to capture its character through the representation of physical appearance and an internal spirituality.