Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Using vigorous lines Rembrandt has drawn a corpulent man leaning across a table-top with his arms crossed. The man's floppy hat tilts forward slightly, casting a shadow onto his podgy face. Rembrandt used brown gallnut ink - a type containing iron - and this has run in most places in the portrait. He used his finger to smear the ink to indicate shadow. The subject is Willem Ruyter, an actor who features in several of Rembrandt's drawings. On this occasion Rembrandt portrays him as a peasant, wearing a smock and a shapeless hat. Ruyter may have performed frequently in the 'boertigheden', popular burlesques with a country yokel in the principal role, a favourite at Amsterdam's theatres.
What appears to be two sprays of the 'viburnum opulus roseum' shrub - the Guelder rose - is in fact a costly hairpin by the famous designer René Lalique. The hairpin is made of a translucent horn apparently so fragile that the flowers of diamond clusters seem to be bending the leaves. The delicate contrast of the materials gives the jewel a magical quality. Lalique was celebrated for his elegant and extremely expensive jewellery. His designs were made for wealthy clients, like his patron, the Armenian oil magnate Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. He made a second hairpin in the same form for this client (now at the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon). That pin has the flowers executed in pale blue plique-á-jour enamel decorated with diamonds.
Year c. 1902-03
Artist René Lalique
Technique Horn, gold and diamonds
Dimensions 15,5 x 7,6 cm
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