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The Artist's Saint Bavo to be Shown for the First Time since its Recent Cleaning and Restoration

June 3, 2009

LOS ANGELES - The J. Paul Getty Museum has put on view this week Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn’s Saint Bavo in its East Pavilion paintings galleries at the Getty Center.  The work, on loan from the Göteborgs Konstmuseum in Sweden, will be the first time it has been publicly displayed since its restoration at the Getty.

Saint Bavo, which will be on view until November 29th, will be placed near the Getty’s own Rembrandt painting of St. Bartholomew.  Both paintings were last seen together in the Getty’s 2005 Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits exhibition, which included many of the powerful religious portraits that Rembrandt created toward the end of his life during a time of personal turmoil.

Painted between 1662 and 1665, Saint Bavo shows a bearded, middle-aged man who wears a red beret with a white ostrich feather and holds a falcon on his left hand.  He stares into the distance with an abstract and vaguely melancholy expression which is characteristic of Rembrandt’s approach to the evocative portrayal of religious figures in the later phase of his career.  Many of Rembrandt’s saints and apostles during this period, such as the Getty’s St. Bartholomew (1661), include attributes from the medieval Catholic tradition, but are otherwise unrecognizable as holy figures.  Although some scholars have disputed the identity of the subject in this painting, a number of attributes, such as the falcon and the plumed hat, support his identification as the medieval Dutch nobleman Bavo who converted to Christianity.

When the painting first arrived at the Getty in October 2008, it was covered with heavy layers of varnish and broad re-paints that partially obscured the artist’s descriptive brushwork and details of the saint’s costume.  Mark Leonard, senior conservator in the Getty Museum’s Paintings Conservation Department, spent several months cleaning the painting and removing the old varnish and overpaints, eventually revealing the textured brushwork of the subject’s face and clothing and the falcon he holds, as well as making more visible the horse and young page boy that were previously difficult to read in the painting’s dark background.

The restoration of the Göteborg Rembrandt was made possible through the generous support of the Getty’s Paintings Conservation Council.

Also on loan to the Getty Museum from a private collector is Rembrandt’s little-known Portrait of a Rabbi, painted about 1640-45.  This painting will be displayed in the same gallery as Saint Bavo until March 2010.  Throughout his career, Rembrandt painted and drew numerous contemplative elderly male subjects.  In Portrait of a Rabbi, the rabbi’s chest and face is illuminated by a strong light, which is energetically modeled with expressive, textured brushstrokes.  In contrast, the heavy folds of his gown and soft material of his hat are more loosely executed. Rembrandt was sensitive to Jewish tradition, and he sought to capture its character through the representation of physical appearance and an internal spirituality.

Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference
December 8, 2009 – February 28, 2010
Distilling over thirty years of scholarly research, this major international loan exhibition presents an extraordinary opportunity to explore the differences between Rembrandt’s drawings and those of over fourteen students and followers. In carefully selected pairings of celebrated drawings by Rembrandt and his pupils, the exhibition outlines these artistic differences and sheds light on the art of drawing in Rembrandt’s circle and the vibrant creative life within the master’s studio.

Rembrandt in Southern California
A virtual exhibition of paintings by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606–1669), Rembrandt in Southern California is a dedicated website comprised of 14 paintings that are on view in five Southern California museums.  The website is the product of a groundbreaking collaboration between the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Hammer Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles; the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena; and the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, all working in concert. Unlike the limited duration of the average museum loan exhibition, this collective exhibition continues indefinitely, on view in the "greater museum of Southern California.”

Note to editors: Images available upon request.

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Desiree Zenowich
Getty Communications

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