Portrait of an old man (The Old Rabbi)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Leida 1606 – Amsterdam 1669)
Signed and dated in 1665, this portrait was created towards the end of Rembrandt's prolific artistic career, much of which was devoted to portrait painting. Indeed, it was as a portrait artist that Rembrandt became known in the 1630s in Amsterdam, where he lived for a long time in the Jewish quarter and often used neighbors and acquaintances as models for his paintings. The face of the old man in the portrait has been identified as that of a Rabbi; indeed, it has been suggested that the portrait can be attributed to a precise figure, Rabi Haham Saul Levy Morteira, but documents do not yet confirm this. In the portrait, Rembrandt studies the psychology of the elder man, emphasizing the detached pensiveness of his expression and the impression of being lost in thoughts, which seem engulfed by the painting's dark background. This tone is emphasized by the artist’s technique, characterized by the use of textured colors spread thickly onto the canvas.
The painting’s quality did not escape the notice of Napoleonic officials and from 1799 to 1815 the painting was transferred to Paris, later returning to Florence in 1834 to be displayed in the Palatine Gallery of the Pitti Palace.