Belshazzars Feast Rembrandt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This famous story from the Old Testament tells of Belshazzar hosting a large banquet for his colleagues

Belshazzar's behaviour throughout this occasion was considered blasphemous and his resultant punishment was death and the loss of his kingdom. This particular work was completed in 1636 and marked Rembrandt's entry into the genre of history paintings.

The original painting can be found at the National Gallery in London, UK, as part of a large and prestigious collection of art from across the Renaissance and Baroque art movements, as well as much more besides. The venue itself is large and spacious - a prerequisite for anywhere planning to host art from these periods, to the large scale of most work at that time. This particular painting measures 167.6 cm × 209.2 cm (66.0 in × 82.4 in).

The one aspect that stands out about this painting, as compared to the rest of Rembrant's ouevre, is the pigments used. He incorporated a huge range of colours including, but not only, smalt, lead-tin-yellow, yellow and red lakes, vermilion, ochres and azurite.

One elements of Belshazzar's crimes was to serve wine in stolen golden cups, previously looted from the Temple in Jerusalem, as described in the Book of Daniel (5: 1-6, 25-8). Belshazzar's father, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, was responsible for this theft.

A key element to this composition is the inscription that Rembrandt places in the top right of the canvas. This is a message delivered from God, explaining his disatisfaction with the behaviour of Belshazzar and the resultant punishment. The bizarre lettering was only understood by Daniel, who would translate the message for all the others at this feast.