Essay about Rembrandt's Painting An Old Man in Military Costume

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Rembrandt's Painting "An Old Man in Military Costume"

With an extraordinary intensity, Rembrandt van Rijn’s “An Old Man in Military Costume” is an example of the artist’s use of dynamic lighting. The painting, on display at the Getty Museum, contains a single figure, an old man dressed in a military uniform. While one may appreciate the beauty of the work, to fully experience the passion and genius of the artist, it is necessary to see the painting in person. The delicate details that may be missed by a digital image are easily caught by the human eye. The proper way to view a Rembrandt is in the flesh; the difference is amazing.

Born in Leiden, Netherlands, Rembrandt was the son of a miller and
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Through the singular illumination, the man’s face becomes the focus of the entire picture while the background and his clothing are of secondary note. The positioning of the figure also draws attention to the face. The man’s body is turned sideways but his face is turned toward the viewer creating an impression that we have caught his eye rather than the other way around. Rembrandt painted every minute detail of the face with great care; from the watery reddened eyes to the individual hairs of the man’s beard, nothing is overlooked. Painted during a time when the Dutch were fighting the Spanish for their independence, the man may have been a member of the Dutch army. His patient and resigned demeanor could possibly be the result of years of military service. Sadness seems to surround the man as he faces loss of youth and his own mortality. The entire painting has an aura of sorrow interwoven with resolve.

Elizabeth I could have spoken to many such men in her address, “To the English Troops at Tilbury, Facing the Spanish Armada.” Her rousing speech to encourage the English army invoked an image of the enemy, Spain: “…and [I] think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the border of my realm” (1091). She discusses the strength of the English, their commitment to freedom and their willingness to fight. As their

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