To see Rembrandt’s earliest paintings in his home city


Paintings that Rembrandt van Rijn, master of the Dutch Golden Age, made when he was only 18 years old will soon be displayed together for the first time in Leiden, his home city.

De Lakenhal Museum, just a stone’s throw from where Rembrandt’s studio was believed to be at the time, showed the four paintings to the media on Thursday.

The paintings are part of a series depicting the five senses. This includes The glasses salesmanreferring to sight, Three musiciansreferring to audience, Faint patientreferring to smell, and The operationreferring to touch.

The fifth painting in the series depicting taste has never been located.

“It remains strange. We are pretty sure that Rembrandt actually created five paintings in this series because there are five senses and not four,” museum curator Janneke van Asperen told AFP.

“We have no idea where this painting could be. Maybe it’s still in someone’s attic somewhere. Or maybe it’s gone. Of course we hope to find it.”

The paintings show that Rembrandt challenged convention at a young age, the museum says in a statement, as the senses in 16th-century art were usually represented as female figures.

“The talent we see in these works is already exceptional,” said Van Asperen.

There are nevertheless certain elements in the paintings that point to the work of a very inexperienced painter, such as the depiction of the heads, according to Van Asperen.

This early work does show signs of what would eventually become Rembrandt’s characteristic features, such as broad brushstrokes and the use of chiaroscuro, a technique that emphasizes contrasts between dark and light to create three-dimensional figures with dramatic effect.

“We look forward to introducing Dutch as well as international visitors to the very earliest work from Rembrandt’s hand and the talent that the artist already showed at such a young age,” added Tanja Elstgeest, the museum director, on Thursday.

The paintings can be seen from Saturday (January 20) to June 16 in De Lakenhal Museum in Leiden.