Monday, 24 October 2011

Saskia Bathing

In 1639, Rembrandt and and his wife Saskia moved into a larger house in Amsterdam. He sketched endlessly - people on the street, beggars, circuses, women and children, Saskia. His painting was influenced by new developments in Italian art which reached the Netherlands via prints, and via his more travelled colleagues. The influence of Caravaggio is evident and he developed a new way of describing faces with patterns of light and shadow, rather than simply lighting one side and shading the other. 

Saskia Bathing is an earlier piece from 1639 and shows his tenderness for his wife as he captures her here stepping down into the water. The rich brocade behind her is perhaps indicative of the high life they were both living at this time when Rembrandt was spending more quickly than he could earn. She was to die only 2 years later pushing Rembrandt into dark and despondent moods. This has always been one of my favourite Rembrandt pieces and along with his other works of Saskia in bed suffering through tuberculosis, I am always in wonder and awe of Rembrandt's great abilities in his depictions of Saskia. 

As an artist, he takes the risky path of inviting us into private moments. He shows us sides of someone close to him that could cause embarrassment or betray trusts. He draws and paints the people who are nearest and dearest to him - always risky as the depictions need to be accurate, but not too sweet nor to harsh in their rendering - and always the works that engender the most criticisms. In Saskia Bathing, he captures a particularly intimate and vulnerable moment as he shows us the relationship with his wife and lover as he carefully and lovingly invites us all into a tender moment of trust and fragility through his art.

Burn brightly, Pete

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