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This is one of three self portraits Rembrandt made just before his death in 1669. About 80 survive from his 40-year career, far more than any other artist of his time. He painted them for different reasons – to practise different expressions, to experiment with lighting effects, and also to sell to wealthy patrons and collectors. In this one, Rembrandt is preoccupied with depicting the textures and colours of his own ageing face. The sagging fold beneath his right eye is made with the swirl of a heavily loaded brush. The blemishes on his forehead are formed of blotches of coagulated paint. Many later writers and artists have interpreted this as intense, unflinching, existential honesty: Rembrandt coming to terms with the approach of death.
Self Portrait at the Age of 63
Oil on canvas
H 86 x W 70.5 cm