Flemish and Dutch painting

The Supper at Emmaus

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn as Rembrandt
Leyde, 1606 - Amsterdam, 1669

Around 1628, Oil on canvas, 39 x 42 cm

After his death and resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth appeared to his disciples on several occasions. The scene at Emmaus recalled by the apostle Luke is the scene most depicted by artists. It is also the moment that Rembrandt chose to represent here.

A painter of Biblical subjects, was Rembrandt a religious painter? One could affirm that he was, as the pictorial treatment of Christ at Emmaus corresponds exactly to the Christian message. This work could represent a simple scene at an inn: the guests are sitting at the table and the servant bustles around the back room. However, by using the old technique of chiaroscuro and a strong contre-jour effect created by a light source positioned behind the figure of Christ, the scene is transfigured; the figure of Christ becomes an ethereal silhouette. This mysterious radiance is all it takes to reveal the divine nature of Christ and to produce a strong dramatic effect.

The Dutch artist repeatedly handled the subject of the scene at Emmaus throughout his life. But no other version achieves the perfection of this youthful work, where the mystery is suggested with such simplicity.

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