This honest self-portrait is amongst the most respected of Rembrandt's work in this very personal genre, from a total of over eighty across all mediums
Rembrandt van Rijn would discover late in his career that self portraits would be amongst his best selling artworks, and at that time finance was a big issue in his life. He was once pronounced bankrupt, partly due to his obsession with purchasing other artist's work. Whilst having a great eye, he still managed to fritter away money throughout his life, making it essential that he remained productive as an artist himself.
Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar was painted in 1659, when the artist was fifty three years of age and just entering the last decade of his life. This painting measures 84.4 cm × 66 cm which is relatively small when looking across his career, but typical of his single portrait work. This intriguing self portrait can be found at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. This institution contains a supreme collection of art from across a wide selection of movements, both in style and age, also including works by the likes of Albrecht Dürer, Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, Eugène Delacroix and Francisco Goya.
Of his other work within self portraiture, it is worth comparing this to Self-Portrait with Two Circles, which is another high respected work. The artist in that work offers light all around the composition, where as in that featured in this page there is darkness throughout other than around the artist's face. A little detail can be seen to his hat and hair but most focus is intended to be for the artist's face alone.
This modest pose features a fur cloak with his hands in his lap. Rembrandt aimed to promote himself as a character, almost celebrity in his younger years but turned away from this later in life. As with most people he would become much more comfortable in his own skin as he got older and in this portrait was simply presenting himself as himself. The striking quality of Rembrandt was to bring a realism to the contours of the face through a skilled handling of light and this can be seen within this particular painting.