Self-Portrait Wearing a Soft Cap (The Three Mustaches)
8.7 cm x 7.1 cm (3 7/16 in. x 2 13/16 in.)
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (aka Rembrandt)
(Leiden, The Netherlands, 1606 - 1669, Amsterdam)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Blanton Ball Purchase, 2002
Self-portraiture was at the core of Rembrandt’s art. His studies of his own appearance, unusual enough in number, in their play with guises, and in their variety of formats, transcend any convention in their visible probing of the self. In turn, they prepared a vocabulary to express the inner workings of other personalities and, more universally, the inclinations of the soul. Both the astonishing individuality and general humanity of Rembrandt’s personages arise from, and were rehearsed through, this activity.
Rembrandt explored self-portraiture in sustained campaigns. The most intensive and experimental occurred among the late paintings and among the early etchings. Never formally published or reprinted, these prints were created for the artist’s own satisfaction and are therefore among his rarest. Here he presents himself in a rakish cap, ever sensitive but quite confident. It is the most direct and emotionally mature of the first campaign.
The early self-portraits were no less experimental in technique. Their incredible spontaneity, economy, and of course size suggest the most intimate sketches. Along with some related portraits, these prints represent the most radical expression to date of the conceptual and procedural relation between etching and drawing. In this sense, they also predict Rembrandt’s accomplishments as the greatest master of etching.