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With great power and poignancy, Rembrandt has depicted a young man literally weighed down with heavy armour and weapons, and appearing to have profound thoughts of battles ahead. Significantly, this soldier's armour, circular shield and lance are all of a style essentially obsolete by the time the painting was made. This suggests that he is to be understood as a figure from the past. His helmet, evoking antiquity, is an invention by the artist, mixing the rear neck-guard of a contemporary cavalry helmet with a brow plate and crest in a style then considered to be characteristically classical. Who the man in the painting is has been a matter of continuing debate. Classical heroes, such as Achilles, or gods, such as Mars and Apollo, have been proposed, while warrior goddesses such as Bellona and Pallas Athene (the Roman Minerva) have also been suggested by virtue of the subject's youthful features and prominent pearl earring.
A Man in Armour
oil on canvas
H 137.5 x W 104.4 cm
bequeathed by Jane Graham-Gilbert, 1877