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Rembrandt's circle - Man with gold helmet

von Alexandra Tuschka

Who sees this painting, associates it in many cases with the Dutch painter Rembrandt. It has long been considered one of his major works; even the epitome of a Rembrandt, it combined the thick impasto, the grandiose play of light and dark, the extraordinary materiality of the shiny helmet, the realistic representation of the face. Moreover, the painting even bears the signature of the great artist - no doubt?

Various interpretations have been put forward - the grim-looking man could be Rembrandt's brother Adriaen. Many suspected in the bearer a man of the highest, military rank or even the image of Mars after the war. Interestingly, however, the sitter is not the protagonist of the work, but subordinates himself to the helmet in terms of space and content. Abraham Bredius described the work slightly jokingly as a "masterful still life of a helmet".

As part of the Rembrandt Research Project, the painting was removed from its frame and examined - it was found that the painting had been trimmed all around and large areas had been added to or painted over by restorers, predominantly on the face. Since 1986, it is no longer considered an original; the painting is attributed to Rembrandt's "environment". Moreover, it was not uncommon for the workshop owner's signature to be found even on paintings on which he had hardly laid a hand himself - even then, people knew how a big name could increase the value of a painting. Since the painting is no longer considered Rembrandt, it has experienced this effect firsthand. Many found that now that it was no longer a "real Rembrandt," even the imposing golden helmet had lost its luster.

Abraham Bredius quoted after Saam Nystad: Der Goldhelm. In: Yearbook of the Berlin Museums 41 (1999), pp. 245-250, here p. 245.

Rembrandt's circle - Man with gold helmet

Oil on canvas, around 1650 / 1655, 67.5 cm × 50.7 cm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in Berlin


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