Self-Portrait, Age 23 - rembrandt van rijn, 1629

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

Self-Portrait, Age 23, 1629

Oil on oak panel, 89.7 x 73.5 cm (35 5/16 x 28 15/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number


Dimension Notes

Frame: 125.3 x 108.6 cm (49 5/16 x 42 3/4 in.) approx


Collection of the 1st Marquess of Buckingham George Nugent-Temple-Grenville (1753-1813), Stowe House, England by 1788. (probably acquired after 1780)
Passed by descent to his paternal grandson the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville (1797-1861), Stowe House, England.
Purchased by an agent (a certain Wyatt (?), possibly acting on behalf of William Ward) at the auction of the Stowe collection by Christie and Manson, London for £54.12 on 31 August 1848, lot 421.
Collection the 1st Earl of Dudley William Ward (1817-1885), Dudley Castle, England.
Collection of the Sawyer family, Somerset, England by 24 February 1890.
Purchased by the art dealers Arthur Tooth & Sons (active 1842-1941), London (for the art dealers Colnaghi & Co. (?), London) at the auction of the collection of Charles Edward Sawyer (1816-1891), Somerset by Christie, Manson & Woods for £1,100 (?) on 13 July 1895, lot 81.
Passed between Tooth and Colnaghi from 13 July 1895 to 6 February 1896.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the art dealers Colnaghi & Co., London for £3,000 by 16 February 1896, through the American art historian Bernard Berenson (1865-1959).


Inscribed (lower right, in green-brown paint): RHL [in monogram] [162]9 [the first three digits of this date were executed in 19th century (?) paint
Seal (on the panel, verso): the Sawyer family arms impaling an uncertain coat of arms, a gold cross upon an azure field (perhaps an erroneous transcription of the van der Capellen arms)
Inscribed (on a cleaner's label affixed to the frame): Edward Sawyer Esq., No. 1, Portrait of Rembrandt, 24/2/90


B. Seeley. Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens of the Most Noble and Puissant Prince, George Grenville Nugent Temple, Marquis of Buckingham... (Buckingham, 1788), p. 49. (entitled "Rembrandt's Head, when young"; as by Rembrandt)
J. Seeley. Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens of the Most Noble and Puissant Prince, George Grenville Nugent Temple, Marquis of Buckingham... (Buckingham, 1797), p. 57. (entitled "Rembrandt, when young"; as by Rembrandt)
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters, vol. 7 (London, 1836), pp. 143, 149, nos. 422 [?], 445. (perhaps catalogued twice accidentally; entitled "A Youth" and "A Young Gentleman" respectively; both as by Rembrandt, both described from prints by anonymous and by Robert Cooper respectively)
Christie and Manson. Catalogue of the Contents of Stowe House... (London, 15 August-7 October 1848), p. 190, lot 421. (entitled "Portrait of the painter, when young, in a hat and feather"; as by Rembrandt)
Henry Rumsey Forster. The Stowe Catalogue Priced and Annotated (London, 1848), p. 193, lot 421. (called "Portrait of the painter, when young, in a hat and feather"; as by Rembrandt)
Gustav Friedrich Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain..., vol. 2 (London, 1854), p. 237, no. 2. (called "A male portrait of considerable size"; as by Rembrandt)
Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom Collected at Manchester in 1857. Exh. cat. (Manchester, 1857), p. 53, no. 679. (entitled "A Male Portrait"; as by Rembrandt)
Théophile Thoré-Bürger [pseudonym: W. Bürger]. Trésors d’art exposés à Manchester en 1857 et Provenant des Collections Royals... (Paris, 1857), p. 247. (called "portrait of a man"; as by Rembrandt)
Eugène Dutuit. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt: catalogue historique et descriptif... (supplément à l'oeuvre complet de Rembrandt), vol. 1 (Paris, 1885), p. 17. (as by Rembrandt)
Christie, Manson & Woods. Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters and of the Early English School... (London, 13 July 1895), p. 22, lot 81. (entitled "A Young Gentleman"; as by Rembrandt)
"Sale of Properties." The Times (London, 15 July 1895). (called "a portrait of a young gentleman, represented in a three-quarter view")
Wilhelm Bode et al. The Complete Work of Rembrandt: History, description and heliographic reproduction of all the master's pictures with a study of his life and art, vol. 1 (Paris, 1897), pp. 10-11, 70, no. 18 (as by Rembrandt, dated 1629; as perhaps commissioned by Constantijn Huygens)
Art Exhibition: Mrs. John L. Gardner, 152 Beacon St., Boston. Exh. cat. (Boston, 1899), p. 7, no. 15. (as by Rembrandt, when he was 22 years of age)
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 16. (entitled "Portrait of Rembrandt at the Age of Twenty-Two"; as by Rembrandt)
John Lafarge et al. (eds.). Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections, vol. 1 (London, 1907), pp. 62, 106-07, 203-05, ill. (entitled "Rembrandt in a Plumed Cap"; as by Rembrandt, when he was perhaps 22 or 23 years of age, an early work)
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. 6 (Esslingen, 1915; Translated, London, 1916), p. 263, no. 529. (as by Rembrandt, dated 1629)
Morris Carter. Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court (Boston, 1925; Reprint, Boston, 1972), pp. 156-57. (as by Rembrandt, when he was 22 years of age)
Kurt Bauch. Die Kunst des jungen Rembrandt (Heidelberg, 1933), p. 159, fig. 173. (as by Rembrandt)
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 290-92, ill. (as by Rembrandt; as possibly a collaboration with Jan Lievens, 1629)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 177. (as by Rembrandt or Jan Lievens or both, 1629)
Abraham Bredius. Rembrandt schilderijen: 630 Afbeeldingen (Utrecht, 1935; Translated, London, 1936), no. 8. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Theun de Vries. In 't huis Rembrandt (Leiden, 1938), p. 11, ill. (as studio of Rembrandt)
Stuart Preston. "Self-Portrait" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 45, ill. (as by Rembrandt, when he was 23 years of age, 1629)
Seymour Slive. “The Young Rembrandt.” Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, vol. 20 (1963), pp. 146, 148, fig. 28. (as by Rembrandt, 1629; in the character of a commissioned portrait)
Geoffrey Agnew. "Portrait of a Man with a Plumed Hat." Painting of the Month (Oct.-Dec. 1964), p. 77, fig. 120. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Peter Murray et al. Dictionary of Art and Artists (Suffolk, England, 1965), p. 335, fig. 446. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt: Gemälde (Berlin, 1966), pl. 292. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Horst Gerson. Rembrandt Paintings (Amsterdam, 1968), pp. 198-99, 490, no. 38. (as by Rembrandt, around 1629; "said to be signed and dated")
Abraham Bredius et al. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings, ed. 3 (London, 1969), p. 547, no. 8. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Giovanni Arpino et al. L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt (Milan, 1969), p. 94, no. 30. (entitled "Self Portrait with a beret"; as by Rembrandt, 1629?)
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 199-200, ill. (as by Rembrandt, when he was about 22 years of age, before 1631-1632)
John Walsh Jr. "Paintings in the Dutch Room" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), pp. 51, 55, pl. C. (as by Rembrandt, about 1629)
Ernest Samuels. Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur (Cambridge, 1979), p. 244.
Christopher Brown. Rembrandt: Every Painting, vol. 1 (Milan, 1980), p. 24, no. 29. (as by Rembrandt, about 1629)
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 80-81, ill. (as by Rembrandt, about 1629)
Christopher Wright. Rembrandt: Self-Portraits (London, 1982), pp. 21, 40, fig. 20, no. 29. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Josua Bruyn et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 1(The Hague, 1982), pp. 218-224, no. A20, figs. 1-3. ("after some hesitation" attributed as an autograph work by Rembrandt, 1629)
Gary Schwartz. Rembrandt, zijn leven, zijn schilderijen: een niuwe biograpfie met alle beschikbare schilderijen in kleur afgebeeld (Maarssen, 1984), p. 59, fig. 43. (as by Rembrandt, [162]9)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. xv, xix, 47-50, 52, 120.
H. Perry Chapman. Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits: A Study in Seventeenth-Century Identity (Princeton, 1990), pp. 34, 46-48, 131, pl. 2. (as by Rembrandt, "almost certainly" 1629)
Mieke Bal. Reading “Rembrandt”: Beyond the Word-Image Opposition (Cambridge, 1991), p. 308-09, fig. 8.8. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Claus Grimm. Rembrandt selbst: Eine Neubewertung seiner Porträtkunst (Stuttgart, 1991), p. 28, fig. 43. (as circle of Rembrandt)
Leonard J. Slatkes. Rembrandt: Catalogo completo dei dipinti (Florence, 1992), no. 238. (as by Rembrandt, about 1629)
Christian Tümpel. Rembrandt: All Paintings in Colour (Antwerp,1993), pp. 68, 411, no. 156. (as by Rembrandt, about 1629)
Walter Liedtke. “Rembrandt’s ‘Man in a gorget and plumed cap’ in the J. Paul Getty Museum.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs (1995), pp. 458-62, fig. 54. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Vernon Hyde Minor. Baroque & Rococo: Art & Culture (London, 1999), pp. 236-37, fig. 6.17. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Claus Grimm. "Wege zu Rembrandt: Zum Charakter seiner Selbstbildnisse." Weltkunst (October 1, 1999), p. 1884. (as workshop of Rembrandt)
Amel Elorche. "Op bezoek bij Rembrandt Thuis." Haagsche Courant (Sept. 1999-Jan. 2000), pp. 8-9, ill. (entitled "Self Portrait with a Plumed Beret"; as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Christopher White et al. (eds.). Rembrandt by Himself. Exh. cat. (London: National Gallery, 1999), pp. 61, 104-06, figs. 2, 10c, no. 10. (entitled "Self Portrait with Plumed Beret"; as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Christopher Wright. Rembrandt (Paris, 2000), pp. 319-20, fig. 324. (as by Rembrandt, dated [162]9)
Hilliard Goldfarb and Alan Chong (eds.). Rembrandt Creates Rembrandt: Art and Ambition in Leiden, 1629–1631. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2001), pp. 12-13, 15-16, 79-80, 92-94, 97, 109, 117, 121, 123, 129, fig. 1, cat. 5. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Catherine B. Scallen. "Rembrandt in the Nineties." Rethinking Rembrandt. Fenway Court, vol. 30 (Boston, 2002), pp. 194-96, fig. 104, 201-02. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 131, 142-43, ill. (as by Rembrandt, when he was 23 years of age, 1629)
Clifford S. Ackley et al. Rembrandt's Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher. Exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2003), pp. 78081, 312, 334, no. 14, ill. cover. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Melissa Percival. Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination (Farnham, Surrey, 2011), pp. 60, 62, 129, fig. 4.6. (entitled "Self Portrait Aged 23"; as by Rembrandt, 1629)
George S. Keyes (ed.). Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship. Exh. cat. (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2011), pp. 70-71, 113, fig. 34. (as by Rembrandt, 1629)
Ernst Wetering et al. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 6: Rembrandt's Paintings Revisited - A Complete Survey (The Hague, 2014), pp. 94, 494, no. 29. (entitled "Self-portrait with plumed beret"; as by Rembrandt, 1629)

Rights and reproductions

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Rembrandt’s self-portraits, made throughout his long career, served many different purposes, and in these explorations of his own face and personality remain elusive in many ways. This is one of his first painted self-portraits, and unlike most of the earlier ones, it is not a study of expression or emotion. Indeed, the face, though beautifully lit with evocative shadows, is almost expressionless. The painting is all about costume: the plumed cap, silk scarf, and jacket suggest that this might be an elegant sitter, perhaps even an historic personage. The painting is large and carefully finished, almost as though it were a demonstration piece. In 1629, Rembrandt had not yet received any portrait commissions, so this work might have been done to show off his talents.

On the other hand, by 1629, the twenty-three-year-old artist had already begun to attract critical attention. Self-portraits were a desirable collectible for sophisticated connoisseurs, especially since Rembrandt here wears a golden chain, which indicates the status or nobility of the painter’s profession, although he had not received any such decoration.

Source: Alan Chong, "Self-Portrait, Aged 23," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 143.