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Rembrandt's Eyes

by Simon Schama

  • ISBN: 9780375709814
  • ISBN10: 0375709819

Rembrandt's Eyes

by Simon Schama

  • List Price: $35.00
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish date: 10/01/2001
  • ISBN: 9780375709814
  • ISBN10: 0375709819
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Description: There have been literally countless books of all sorts about Rembrandt, but nothing like Simon Schama's virtuoso weave of biography, history and art history in Rembrandt's Eyes.

At the heart of the book, both biographically and artistically, is Rembrandt's consuming obsession with a man 34 years his senior -- the Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens, rich, internationally famous and knighted, "the prince of painters and painter of princes, " the preeminent artist in all Europe. Torn by conflicting needs first to learn from, then compete with and finally separate himself from Rubens, Rembrandt takes the urge to become a second Rubens so far that at one point he actually superimposes his own face on an engraving of the older artist's self-portrait.

This is the story, then, of not one but two towering painters' journeys of self-discovery, because as Schama shows incontrovertibly, we cannot understand Rembrandt until we first understand Rubens. Born into scandal, with his father under arrest for committing adultery with the Princess of Orange, Rubens grew up to be not merely the greatest painter of the age but a paragon of public virtue: diplomat, scholar, and chief executive of a high-output enterprise making everything from tapestries and book illustrations to public monuments. Rembrandt, born when Rubens was already a legend, also lived through the storms of war and religious strife, rising meteorically to become the most celebrated painter of the Dutch Republic. Only when Rubens dies does Rembrandt finally discover his own independent way, and proceed to utterly reinvent virtually every type of painting he touches -- from histories and portraits to nudes and etchings.

Schama not onlytells the famous story -- of Rembrandt's marriage to Saskia darkened by the death of three of their four children and then the death of Saskia herself; of his compulsive need to outdo Rubens in every aspect of his life and achievement; of his vindictive pursuit of a mistress who sued him for breach of promise; his devastating bankruptcy and his last years, still famous but controversial and so impoverished that he is forced to sell his beloved Saskia's grave.

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