Sordid and Sacred: The Beggars in Rembrandt’s Etchings

Bowers Museum

In a time where beggars were considered the lowliest creatures on earth—depicted as vile, pathetic specimens in the artwork of others—one man showed their likenesses with an air of sympathy and understanding: Rembrandt van Rijn. The Dutch painter even went so far as to place an image of himself beside a poor couple in Sheet of Studies, Head of Rembrandt, Beggars (1632) and further blurred society’s class barriers with The Flight into Egypt: Crossing a Brook (1654) where he paints Joseph with the same rugged appearance and mannerisms commonly used to portray the less-fortunate. While it’s been speculated that the artist’s financial troubles may have caused the humanization of the lower class in his work, others argue that it’s just another example of the outside-the-box visions that make Rembrandt one of the most celebrated artists the world has ever known.
Sat., July 11, 10 a.m., 2009

 
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