Complete Rembrandt Catalogue: History Paintings II

When complete, this online catalogue will comprise more than 300 paintings divided into 7 sections: history paintings, landscapes and animals, self portraits, portraits of family members, genre scenes and portraits.

This catalogue does not propose any single evaluation, however authoritative, by any single party as to the authenticity of any painting. Rather, it should be considered an overview, or a distillation of those works which seem for the most part generally accepted as authentic works painted by the artist's hand. In fact, it has proved particularly vexing to establish a definitive catalogue of Rembrandt's oeuvre. Many works are poorly preserved and have been overpainted by later hands and number of very important attributions are still disputed.

The situation is also complicated by the fact that Rembrandt took on an unusually high number of apprentices in order to insure him a significant income. Some of these apprentices were sufficiently talented as to emulate Rembrandt's own painting and their best works are arduous to distinguish from Rembrandt's own. His work was also imitated by other talented painters as well both during and after Rembrandt's lifetime.

Every effort is being made to acquire the best quality high resolution images, which, however, is not possible in all cases.

What is a History Painting?

A history painting is one which has a serious narrative, or includes exemplars of actions which are intended to have didactic overtones. In this sense the word history relates to the Italian istoria, meaning narrative or story (and not the accurate or documentary description of actual events). History paintings are often large in scale. Their subjects can be taken from the Bible, from mythology or other forms of secular literature, from historical events; or they can be allegories. Noble themes are seen as being particularly worthy of depiction.

History painting was viewed as the most important of the genres from about the 16th century, and the climax of an academic painter's training. It was the equivalent of Epic or Tragedy in literature.

In the Netherlands, history painting, which was once the pinnacle of pictorial art, gradually became a minority art. Most young painters opted for the specialist career in one of the categories of painting that were menaced by realism. This was also, of course, a result of the economic situation within which they had to find a living as professional painters.