Rembrandt's Mother: Myth and Reality (Art) Hardcover – 15 Feb 2006
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An old woman, thought to be Rembrandt's mother, is frequently portrayed in his works. Whether Rembrandt really did depict his mother, or whether this is a myth which has persisted for centuries is still not clear. This book discusses the creation of this myth, which has been an essential part of Rembrandt.
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The second half of the book is a catalog of works by Rembrandt and other Leiden artists that feature his mother, father, sister and brother. Each is described with a history of its ownership, and a bibliography is included. There are about 60 pages each devoted to paintings of his mother and father, about 10 pages to works portraying his brother, and 5 pages to works of his sister.
The book succeeds at what it aims to be. I was drawn to it because I have developed a fondness for the way he paints his mother. She is most often portrayed reading books.
One of the articles, written by Anouk Janssen, that I particularly enjoyed has to do with how artists of the time portrayed old age, which for them was 40-60 years old. Old people were praiseworthy if they read the Bible or engaged in domestic chores; they were portrayed as blameworthy if they were miserly, lazy, or sensual. So while I see a woman who enjoyed reading a lot, Rembrandt was trying to show his mother as a pious person getting her spiritual life in order at the end of her life.