Conversations with Colin: Rembrandt’s Joris de Caulerij

Conversations with Colin: Rembrandt’s Joris de Caulerij


[music] Colin Bailey: I love this portrait. It’s of
a young militiaman, quite a grand figure, a man called Joris de Caulerij, who was from
The Hague. Rembrandt, young, in his late 20s, goes to make a small number of portraits in
The Hague. He may have stayed in this man’s inn. He owned an inn called The Great Swan,
and perhaps, in return for lodging, Rembrandt painted the portrait of the man and his son. This is one of these early Rembrandts, where
the light just emerges from floors — we can’t quite see where it emerges from. The man is
bathed in a glow. He’s shown as a militiaman, quite a high rank in the city of The Hague.
He’s wearing his borgette, which was a sort of breastplate top. He’s got his sword and
musket. What he’s wearing, in his buff-colored coat, he’s waiting for the armor to be placed
over him. This is a military portrait. There was no
war going on. He was not actually in active service. Remember “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt?
There was a whole world of these grand, dashing, swashbuckling militiamen who were there to
protect but also to have a very good time. Interviewer: [laughs] Colin: I think this is a little earlier, of
course — this is 10 years earlier — but it’s the same type of portrait. Interviewer: The artist is also plying his
craft in order to make a living. Colin: With Rembrandt, who was very attentive
to that. He’s a young man, he moves to Amsterdam. He wants to make a real splash as a painter
of grand subjects. Interviewer: Who you paint is as important
as that you paint. Colin: Oh, gosh, and also, for a sense of
community. If you paint a good portrait of one of these militiamen, perhaps another will
commission. Interviewer: Who’s networked into whom. Colin: Oh, very important. For Rembrandt,
who was a towering artist, it wasn’t always so easy. In the early part of his career,
he really has to make a grand statement. These are very original performances, if you like.
The way the lighting comes, as it were, from the front of the picture, the way the figure
engages you with a very frank and, in some ways, quite combative look. But also the sheer technique, being able to
create the armor, the staff, the sword, the glints of light against metal — this was
all quite new. Rembrandt was taking a bit of a risk, in a way, in pushing this new language,
but it met with immediate recognition. [music]

One thought on “Conversations with Colin: Rembrandt’s Joris de Caulerij

  1. I'm a young artist myself, I've always felt a personal connection with this painting. Maybe its a young artist thing? but I've felt an attraction that pulls me inn. Now knowing a bit of its history, I will make sense of what I appreciate. Thanks for sharing it to us. When we visit these places for our own inspiration.

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