Arts & Culture

Moses with the Ten Commandments

Rembrandt1659

Gemäldegalerie, National Museums in Berlin
Gemäldegalerie, National Museums in Berlin

Rembrandt has gone down in history as one of the greatest painters, printmakers and etchers in the whole of European art and the most important Dutch artist to date. Even at an early age he gained a very high reputation as a portrait painter and in his most active period, during the Dutch Golden Age, he executed a spectacular array of works. In 1627 he began to accept students in his big workshop and became master of several artists, including Carel Fabritius and Ferdinand Bol. Some years later he moved on to Amsterdam, where he started his professional career as a portraitist. His focus would always remain on portraiture, but he also created landscapes and narrative paintings. His style was initially quite 'smooth' and fine, later though it became 'rough' due to his variegated paint surfaces which gave a highly tactile quality to his paintings. He is also considered a master of chiaroscuro due to the contrasts of light and dark which so characterize his works. The themes he took up in his paintings served many artists as inspiration, during his lifetime but also after death. The last years of his life were dominated by serious poverty due to high debts. In 1656 he was even declared bankrupt. Rembrandt is best known for such works as 'The Night Watch' (1642) or 'The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp' (1631).

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Details

  • Title: Moses with the Ten Commandments
  • Creator: Rembrandt
  • Date: 1659
  • Physical Dimensions: w136.5 x h168.5 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Viewing notes: Moses is clearly about to smash the stone tablets, which he has just received, in rage and sorrow over the golden calf that has been erected in his absence. The skin of his face is shining, though in fact this is not mentioned until the tablets had been handed over for the second and final time. The writing on the tablets seems to translate the prophet’s inner torment into outward distress. It is uncertain whether the 'Jacob Wrestling with the Angel' in Berlin, slightly smaller because the canvas has been cut down, was intended as a companion piece. It is clear that the pictures were painted at almost the same time and are similar in content; moreover, the figures in both works have a similarly overwhelming presence. The monumental quality derives not least from the placing of the figures at the front edge of the picture, from the almost abstract handling of the background, the highly expressive brushwork and neglect of details, as well as the reduced colour range, which is taken to an almost monochrome extreme in the “Moses”. The greyish veils emphasize the figure’s isolation. The accurate Hebrew transcription, shows Rembrandt’s characteristic attention to detail.
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Rights: Text: © <a href="http://www.prestel.com">Prestel Verlag</a> / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Matthias Weniger Photo: © <a href="http://www.bpk-images.de">b p k - Photo Agency</a> / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Provenance: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

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