REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
(b. 1606, Leiden, d. 1669, Amsterdam)
Rembrandt and Saskia in the Scene of the Prodigal Son in the Tavernc. 1635
Oil on canvas, 161 x 131 cm
Catalogue number: Bredius 30.
This unique double portrait of Rembrandt and Saskia (c. 1635-36) seems to offer an ironic and reflective gaze at his life. Here, too, an etching echoes the subject of the painting, but in the 1636 etched double portrait Rembrandt shows himself at work, drawing as he looks up at the viewer. In the Dresden painting Saskia sits on the lap of a foppishly dressed Rembrandt, who gaily holds up a flagon of ale as he twists to offer a silly grin out of the picture. This tavern setting at once indulges a current "Arcadian" fashion for showing fashionable ladies as courtesans (yet another incarnation of the goddess Flora, with whom Rembrandt had already identified Saskia) as well as draws upon the pictorial tradition of the Prodigal Son with the tavern harlots. It is worth noting that the lavish dress of this couple offers an echo of the finery in the Kassel profile of Saskia, but here the suggestion of loose living and of future repentance from the Prodigal Son analogy also sounds a note of self-criticism.