REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
(b. 1606, Leiden, d. 1669, Amsterdam)

St Paul at His Writing-Desk

Oil on wood, 47 x 39 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

Catalogue number: Bredius 602.

In this painting the light and shadow are closely interwoven. A fluctuation from the one to the other takes place, producing a tenebrous atmosphere, full of mysterious effect. But more than this is achieved: by the fluctuating light the figure is expressly connected with the surrounding space, and the space itself is drawn into the representation. It becomes a vibrant, living medium. Space and figure in Rembrandt's art now share one inseparable existence and are equally expressive. At this point of his development Rembrandt was already able to use chiaroscuro to give the atmosphere both a visual and a spiritual meaning.

Throughout his career, chiaroscuro remained his most powerful means of expression. Of course, there are other important features of his art: his colouristic treatment, his compositional devices; but in a way they are all subordinated to, or in any case co-ordinated with, his chiaroscuro.