Rembrandt Is Eyes

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Screenhunter_29_sep_27_1107One of the virtues of the current exhibit “The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that you can see Rembrandt among his contemporaries. You can see the milieu he was working within and what was different and unique about him. One thing that is confirmed in this comparison is that, like no one else, Rembrandt is eyes. (This is a different point than that made by Simon Schama in his Rembrandt’s Eyes, but not necessarily an incompatible one). By eyes I mean the whole “eye area” — the brow, the lids, the entire fleshy region immediately surrounding and containing the eyes. Contrary to the popular saying, it is not just the eye that is the window to the soul. It is the aforementioned “eye area” that really does it. The wrinkles and furrows, the black bags, and the heavy lids — these are essential aspects of the eye. They tell of a person and who that person has been so far.

Rembrandt was a true master — of that there is no doubt and so nobody bothers to. Everyone who looks at a Rembrandt, especially the portraits, is soon struck by the humanism of it all, by the uncanny closeness you feel toward the human faces that emerge out of the characteristic Rembrandtian gloom. And no matter the person — man or woman, powerful merchant, or outright commoner — Rembrandt portrays them as suddenly vulnerable. Plain and simple, these people can be wounded, they have been wounded. That is the humanism of Rembrandt, his ability to see everyone as a potential wound, as barely prepared for the next blow, whatever it may be. And it is always in the eyes.

More here.