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March 09, 2004

a lesson to us all

1642 was a difficult year for Rembrandt, with far reaching consequences, unseen by him at the time – as the future so often is. Rembrandt, already living beyond his means, or rather his wife’s means, painted The Militia Company of Capt. Frans Banning Cocq and of Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh [1642] better known as the Night Watch. And Saskia, his wife, died.

The Night Watch was a group portrait of soldiers and tradition at the time was such that each individual in the painting paid a sum in accordance to where they were standing in the picture. Rembrandt decided [somewhat foolishly as it happened] that the artistic composition was more important than the status of the subjects.

This was neither a popular nor particularly profitable decision. By 1656, with waning popularity, Rembrandt was bankrupt.

Perhaps in portraiture, as in retail, the customer is always right.

Posted by john at March 9, 2004 02:42 PM

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