The J. Paul Getty Museum
Rembrandt was a sensitive interpreter of the Bible, and he portrayed its larger-than-life figures as human beings with fears and passions, uncertainties, and fierce convictions. In his late religious portraits, he used friends and associates as models, uniting historical subjects with the immediacy of the portrait genre. The individualized features of Bartholomew suggest that a patron may have asked to be portrayed in the guise of the saint (an artistic convention known as a portrait historié). Rembrandt sculpted Bartholomew’s pensive face with thick, heavy strokes while the torso is more thinly executed. His drab left hand hints at advanced age or even death, contrasting with the roughly indicated right hand, which holds a knife—the instrument of the saint’s death by flaying.
Saint Bartholomew, 1661. Oil on canvas, 34 1/8 x 29 3/4 in. (86.7 x 75.6 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 71.PA.15