Rembrandt: Life of Christ. Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1995. 136 pp. Cloth, $22.99.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) executed the pen and ink sketches, black ink etchings, and full-color paintings in this book. Except for a well-written two-page introduction, the text of this life of our Lord is selections from the New King James Gospels, which the editors say suits the carefully executed artwork.
Rembrandt was a biblically-oriented “old master” whose compassion for humanity shines through his work. He himself lost two young children and his beloved wife Saskia, and was no stranger to sorrow and financial hardships. His fondness for such parables as “The Prodigal Son,” which he illustrated frequently, demonstrates the artist’s love of forgiveness and compassion.
Unlike pre-Reformation artists, who tended to portray chiefly the birth narratives and passion week, Rembrandt painted Christ’s lesser-known parables and miracles. He also rendered many “obscure” stories from the OT, which of course are not in this book. For these biblical events he liked to used Jewish models from the Amsterdam ghetto. See JOTGES 6, No. 10, pp. 59-68 for a complete article on this great Protestant artist.
Reading the texts and meditating on them in the light of the facing artwork by this spiritually discerning old master can be a devotional experience.
Especially captivating to this reviewer is the artist’s most popular etching, “The Hundred Guilder Print” (p. 70). It shows a compassionate Savior healing a host of people. “It is also an unusual etching inasmuch as it condenses the whole of Matthew 19 into a single image” (p. x). (However, the text chosen by the publishers to be printed with it is Matt 15:29-31!)
Especially powerful oil paintings in my opinion include “The Storm on the Lake of Galilee” (p. 46), “The Rich Fool” (p. 62), “The Woman Taken in Adultery” (p. 85), “The Meal at Emmaus” (p. 131), and “Doubting Thomas” (p. 134).
This would be a good gift book for an art-lover who is not yet a lover of our Lord, or for a good Christian who could use a dash of culture. Or, the best of both worlds: A lover of both Jesus and the great art He inspires.
Arthur L. Farstad
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society