Rembrandt: predecessor of Goya in mocking princely families?


Rembrandt, portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms

The Dutch weekly Leids Nieuwsblad of 18 July has a report by Werner Zonderop of a lecture, by Christopher Brown, of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, in Leiden.

Brown’s subject was famous seventeenth century painter Rembrandt, born 400 years ago in Leiden.

From the report:

[Constantijn] Huygens [private secretary of Prince Frederik Hendrik, “Stadhouder”, that is, literally, in practice hereditary, viceroy … of the king of Spain, no longer recognized by the new Dutch republic, in revolt against Spain’s Habsburg dynasty] made it possible for Rembrandt to get his first commissions at the Stadhouder’s court [in The Hague].

In this way, in 1632, Rembrandt was allowed to paint the portrait of Amalia von Solms [1602-1675], the wife of Frederik Hendrik.

[She was thirty years old then; eighteen years younger than her husband].

However, the princess of Orange, [nee Countess of Solms-Braunfels], did not like the portrait as it turned out, at all.

She thought her appearance had not been idealized.

To her indignation, Rembrandt painted her too much as she really was: the mouth stiff and grim, knob-nosed and fat, with a rather stern look.

Goya, Charles IV, king of Spain, and his family

Maybe a bit in the vein of Goya a century and half later, who is said to have mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Rembrandt did not continue to work for the would be monarchs’ court in The Hague. Its princes ultimately longed for absolute monarchy like in most other European countries then; including the principality of Orange in France, ruled by the Stadhouders’ dynasty.

Rembrandt went to Amsterdam, where the merchant bourgeoisie often did not see eye to eye with the Orange princely family.

Madame Van Solms had a somewhat Imelda Marcos like reputation of wasting taxpayers’ money on expensive jewelry; contributing to tensions that would later lead to the “Regenten” (upper bourgeoisie in government) temporarily abolishing the office of Stadhouder.

Gerard van Honthorst, portrait of Amalia von Solms

Princess Amalia much prefered Gerard van Honthorst painting her to Rembrandt.

Even after eighteen years of aging since the Rembrandt portrait, Honthorst made her look more attractive.

Rembrandt and Goya: here.

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