Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee - rembrandt van rijn, 1633

rembrandt van rijn (Leyden, 1606 - 1669, Amsterdam)

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633

Oil on canvas, 160 x 128 cm (63 x 50 3/8 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

P21s24

Description

Stolen in 1990.

Provenance

Possibly in the collection of Tymen Jacobsz Hinloopen (1572-1637), Amsterdam by 1644. (as a painting of St. Peter's ship)
Collection of Jacques Specx (1588/89-1652), a Governor General of the East Indies, Amsterdam by 1653.
Collection of Jacob Jacobsz Hinloopen (1644-1705), a burgomaster and sheriff, Amsterdam by 1705.
Collection of Johannes Coop (d. 1746), a calico-printer, Amsterdam.
Collection of Gerrit Braamcamp (1699-1771), Amsterdam before 1750.
Purchase by J. Wubbels at the Braamcamp sale, Amsterdam on 31 July 1771 for 4360 guilders, lot 172.
Collection of John Hope (1737-1784), Amsterdam.
By descent to Philippina Barbera van der Hoeven (d. 1790), widow of John Hope, Amsterdam in 1784.
By descent to Thomas Hope (1769-1831), Adrian Elias Hope (1772-1834), and Henry Philip Hope (1774-1839) sons of John Hope and Philippina Barbera van der Hoeven, Amsterdam in 1790.
Collection of Adrian Elias Hope (1772-1834) and Henry Philip Hope (1774-1839) under the guardianship of their cousin, Henry Hope (about 1739-1811) in 1794. Moved to London.
Collection of Henry Philip Hope possibly by 1802 and exhibited at the home of his eldest brother, Thomas Hope (1769-1831), London in 1819.
By descent to Henry Thomas Hope (1808-1862), son of Thomas Hope, Surrey in 1839.
By descent to Adèle Bichat Hope (d.1887), widow of Henry Thomas Hope, in 1862.
By descent to Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton-Hope (d.1941), grandson of Adèle Bichat Hope and the 8th Duke of Newcastle, London in 1884.
Purchased by the art dealers Asher Wertheimer and Colnaghi & Co. from Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton-Hope in 1898.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Colnaghi & Co. in September 1898 for £6,000, through Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), American art historian.
Stolen in 1990.

Marks

Signed, on rudder: Rembrant. f/1633

Bibliography

Arnold Houbraken. De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlandtsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen, I (Amsterdam, 1718), p. 260. (as "St. Peter's boat")
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 14.
Morris Carter. Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court (Boston, 1925; Reprint, Boston, 1972), p. 169.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 295-96, ill.
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 184.
James W. Howard, Jr. "Rembrandt van Rijn: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee." Fenway Court (1970), pp. 33-38, nos. 1, 4.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 201, 203-04 ill., pl. XXX.
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1981), pp. 84-85, ill.
J. W. Niemeijer. "The Art Collection of John Hope." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 32 (1981), pp. 195 no. 194 and fig. 18, 232.
John Walsh. "Rembrandt's Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee Re-examined." Fenway Court (1986), pp. 6-19, nos. 1-2, 9.
Josua Bruyn, et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, II (The Hague, 1986), pp. 302-310 (A68), figs. 1-6
Ernst van de Wetering. "The Canvas Support." In Josua Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, II (The Hague, 1986), pp. 26, 38-39, 41.
Josua Bruyn. "A Selection of Signatures, 1632-1634." In Josua Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, II (The Hague, 1986), pp. 102-03 fig. 8.
Josua Bruyn and Ernst van de Wetering. "Stylistic Features of the 1630s: The History Paintings." In Josua Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, III (The Hague, 1986), p. 6 fig. 4.
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 147, 149-50, 152-53, 155-56, 159, 328.
Hilliard Goldfarb. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History (Boston, 1995), pp. 92, 97-99 ill., 103.
Harry Mount (ed.). Sir Joshua Reynolds. A Journey to Flanders and Holland (Cambridge, 1996; originally published in the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1797), pp. 101, 171 n. 502.
Alan Chong. "The Myth of Young Genius: Understanding Rembrandt's Early Career." In Hilliard Goldfarb and Alan Chong (ed.), Rembrandt Creates Rembrandt: Art and Ambition in Leiden, 1629–1631. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2001), pp. 75 fig. 70, 80.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 144-45, ill.
Ernst Wetering et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 6: Rembrandt's Paintings Revisited - A Complete Survey (The Hague, 2014), pp. 174, 530, no. 165.


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Commentary

Rembrandt’s most striking narrative painting in America, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, is also his only painted seascape. Dated 1633, it was made shortly after Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam from his native Leiden, when he was establishing himself as the city’s leading painter of portraits and historical subjects. The detailed rendering of the scene, the figures’ varied expressions, the relatively polished brushwork, and the bright coloring are characteristic of Rembrandt’s early style. Eighteenth-century critics like Arnold Houbraken often preferred this early period to Rembrandt’s later, broader, and less descriptive manner.

The biblical scene pitches nature against human frailty – both physical and spiritual. The panic-stricken disciples struggle against a sudden storm, and fight to regain control of their fishing boat as a huge wave crashes over its bow, ripping the sail and drawing the craft perilously close to the rocks in the left foreground. One of the disciples succumbs to the sea’s violence by vomiting over the side. Amidst this chaos, only Christ, at the right, remains calm, like the eye of the storm. Awakened by the disciples’ desperate pleas for help, he rebukes them: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” and then rises to calm the fury of wind and waves. Nature’s upheaval is both cause and metaphor for the terror that grips the disciples, magnifying the emotional turbulence and thus the image’s dramatic impact.

The painting showcases the young Rembrandt’s ability not only to represent a sacred history, but also to seize our attention and immerse us in an unfolding pictorial drama. For greatest immediacy, he depicted the event as if it were a contemporary scene of a fishing boat menaced by a storm. The spectacle of darkness and light formed by the churning seas and blackening sky immediately attracts our attention. We then become caught up in the disciples’ terrified responses, each meticulously characterized to encourage and sustain prolonged, empathetic looking. Only one figure looks directly out at us as he steadies himself by grasping a rope and holds onto his cap. His face seems familiar from Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and as his gaze fixes on ours we recognize that we have become imaginative participants in the painter’s vivid dramatization of a disaster Christ is about to avert.

Source: Michael Zell, "Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 145.

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