Rembrandt's "Synagogue" and Some Problems of Nomenclature

Author(s): Ludwig Münz
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 3, No. 1/2 (Oct., 1939 - Jan.,
1940), pp. 119-126
Published by: The Warburg Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/750196 .
Accessed: 22/04/2012 05:27
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
The Warburg Institute is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.
http://www.jstor.org
REMBRANDT'S "SYNAGOGUE" AND SOME PROBLEMS
OF NOMENCLATURE
By Ludwig
Miinz
Certain
works
by
Rembrandt,
to which he
gave
no
title,
were
assigned
names
by
his
contemporaries.
It is the aim of the
following
article
to
investigate
how far these names were determined
by
the formal
qualities
of the works concerned. In this
connection,
an
attempt
is made to emend
the title
(first
used in the
I8th
century)
of Rembrandt's
etching
"The
Synagogue" (M.
234).
In
exploring
this curious
chapter
in the
history
of
nomenclature,
we
are
mainly
concerned with Rembrandt's
early
studies for
heads;
to these
and to their derivatives his
interpreters frequently
attached the names of
historical and biblical
personages,
such as : Hermes
Trismegistus, Heraklitus,
Democritus,
Divinus
Plato, Aristoteles, Zenon, Epicurus,
Philon
le
Juif,
Marc
Agripe Philosophe
allemand,
Thomas
Morus,
Le docteur Faust
Philosophe,
Mahomet,
Scanderbec
Roy d'Albanie,
Ragoczy,
Gaston de
Foix.'
Moreover,
a Rembrandt
etching
was sometimes used as the source
for
portraits
of more than one
person.
Thus the
penitent Judas
of
J.
van
Vliet
is Heraclitus for Ciartres and
Hollar;2
Rembrandt's "Bearded Old
Man"
(H. 92) (P1. 22a)
becomes Plato for Ciartres
(P1. 22b)
and Marcus
Agrippa
for B. Moncornet
(P1. 22d);3
and a further
example,
of which the
full
implications
have never been
realised,
is Rembrandt's
painting
of a
young man,
dated
I6334 (P1. 22g).
In
Schabaelje's book,
where it is
reproduced
in reverse from de Leeuw's
etching,
it is called the chaste
Joseph5
1 Rudolf
Payer
von
Thurn,
Der historische
Faust im
Bilde, Wien, 1917, p.
2 f. contains
most of the
quoted examples,
but his list
is not
quite complete.
2
Cf.
also de Vliet's
etching
B. 26 after
Rembrandt which is sometimes called Ra-
goczy
and sometimes Scanderbec.
Payer
von
Thurn, op. cit., p. 5.
3 Franqois Langlois,
called
Ciartres,
born
March
12th, 1588
at
Chartres,
died
January
14th, 1647
at
Paris,
was in his time a
very
successful
engraver
and
publisher.
He
published
also
etchings
of and after Claude
Vignon;
van
Dyck painted
his
portrait
in
the costume of a
savoyard.
B. Moncornet
published encyclopaedic portrait
series of the
same kind as Ciartres. He was born about
I6I5
at Rouen and died after
167o, probably
in Paris.
4
The
existing picture
is referred to in
Hofstede de Groot's list of Rembrandt's
works as
no.
431 "Young
Man in Profile"
(Verzeichnis
der Werke der
hervorragendsten
holldn-
dischen
Maler des XVII.
Jahrhunderts,
Vol. VI
:
Rembrandt, 1915)
and is
reproduced
in
Valentiner,
Rembrandt's
Gemilde,
p. 145
as
being
in the
possession
of Charles
Sedlmayer,
Paris. Bredius did not include it in his
volume of Rembrandt's
paintings (Vienna,
Phaidon
Press, 1935)
and Kurt Bauch
(Jakob
Adriaen's
Backer, Berlin, I926, p. 30o,
No.
90
of his
Catalogue)
attributes it to Backer.
But the
contemporary etching by
W. de
Leeuw with the
signature
"Ri
1633"
confirms
the attribution of the
composition
to Rem-
brandt
although
the
Sedlmayer picture may
not be authentic. The three
copies
dealt
with in the text are made in reverse after
de Leeuw's
etching.
5
J.
P.
Schabaelje,
Emblemata
Sacra,
Am-
sterdam, Tyman Houthaak, I654,
contains
this
print
with the
caption
: "Een schoon
en eel
gemoet,
Verwint het
quaet
met
't
goet."
The
following
lines of the text
draw attention to the fact that the biblical
Joseph
is intended to
personify
Virtue. The
engraving
is
by Savery
and is
signed
"Rembrandt Inventor."
By Savery
is also in the same book a
portrait signed
:
"R. van
rijn
inventor" of
Rembrandt's
father, personifying
"Roman
Statesmanship."
This
corresponds,
with the
I19
120 L. MJ3NZ
(Pl. 23a);
for the French
engraver
and
publisher
Ciartres it is Gaston de la
Foix;1 and, finally,
in an
engraving, probably published by
Pierre
Aubry
in
Strasbourg,
it becomes
Epicurus (P1. 23b).
The aim of the
interpreter
seems to have been to
represent
his
conception
of a
particular worthy,
rather than
simply
to
copy
Rembrandt's
work;
for we find these
spurious "portraits"
either
illustrating
books about the
person
concerned or in
portrait-series of,
for
instance,
philosophers,
rulers
or warriors.
What led the
copyist
to render his
conceptions by
means of these
particular
works of Rembrandt
and,
in some
cases, by modifying
them?
There were two
reasons;
and the
degree
to which
they operated depended
on the education and
fancy
of the
engraver.
The first was the
guidance
given by
a known authentic
prototype.
This
operated
in the case of the
"Divinus Plato"
engraving,
edited
by
the
publisher
Ciartres
(P1. 22b),
who must have known the ancient
bust,
of which
many replicas
exist2
(P1. 22c).
It cannot be
only
coincidence that "Divinus Plato" has
acquired
the rather
long
and
strong
nose of the ancient bust and the same kind of
moustache.
But, any
doubt as to whether Ciartres made use of the ancient
prototype
is
dispelled by
observation of the manner in which the lower
lip
of Rembrandt's "Bearded Old Man"
(P1. 22a)
has been transformed
in the "Divinus Plato."
Finally,
in Rembrandt's
etching
the
beard, owing
to his use of
light
and
shade,
appears
as a white mass of
hair;
whereas in
the
copy-following
the ancient
prototype-it
is
changed
into a
great
number of
separate curls;
and it is clear that this is not a weakness in the
etcher's
technique,
since other
prints by
Ciartres show a more
Rembrandtesque
treatment of the beard.
The same
process
can be discerned in the case of Ciartres'
"Democritus,"
exception
of the
headdress, especially
in
the
expression
and
lighting
of the
head,
with
the
print
of van Vliet after Rembrandt called
"Mohamed"
(cf.
also Rembrandt's
etching
H.
22).
This is a further
example
of the
changing
of names with which the
present
article is concerned.
Still a third model of Rembrandt is
adopted
in
Schabaelje's Emblemata, namely
the "Hermes
Trismegistus."
But it
may
be mentioned that this
etching
is
not,
as
has been assumed
by
Hind
(202),
the
original
by Rembrandt,
but a
copy
of
it,
as
O.
H. Bar-
nard has shown
("Note
on Rembrandt's
student at a table
by candle-light,"
in
Catalogue 33,
Craddock &
Barnard, Tunbridge
Wells,
I935).
As
Schabaelje's
book
appeared
at Amsterdam
during
Rembrandt's
life-time,
it
may
be assumed that the names were not
given
without Rembrandt's
approval.
1
Cf.
Hofstede de
Groot,
Urkunden
iiber
Rembrandt, Haag, I9o6, p.
26
:
"Portrait
of a
young man, etching by
Willem de
Leeuw. A
copy
in reverse with the
inscrip-
tion H R invent. F.L.D. Ciartres ex. Cum
Privilegio.
Gaston Foisseius."
2 Here can
only
be hinted at the manner
in which ancient
portraits
themselves are
based on the idea of the
personality
and the
profession
of the
depicted person. Hekler,
Die Bildniskunst der Griechen und
RUmer, 1912,
points
out
clearly
that there exists a
process
of
creating symbols,
and this
corresponds
to
the
activity
of the
I7th century interpreters
of Rembrandt.
In this context it
may
be mentioned that
the
portrait
of a
person
is
apt
to
change
with
growing fame,
the artist
being inspired
by
the
knowledge
of his model's achievments.
Kruckenberg,
Der Gesichtsausdruck des Men-
schen, Berlin, 1913,
shows with a series of
portraits
of Goethe how his face and
mainly
his forehead
were
reshaped by
artists after
he had become famous.
Ciartres' "Divinus Plato" is
signed by
an
otherwise unknown artist : "H Padoanus
inventor."
22
a
Rembrandt,
Old Man.
Etching (H. 92) (pp.
I
19, 122)
Aw
c•
A
Aipt
twa.
os
i
A
si
b-Divinus Plato.
Engraving,
c Plato. Ancient Bust.
Rome,
d B.
Moncornet,
Marcus
published by
Ciartres
(p.
120)
Vatican
(p. 120) Agrippa. Engraving(p.
122)
e-Epicurus.
Ancient Bust.
f-Besson,
Gaston de la
g-Copy
after Rembrandt.
London, British Museum Foix. Engraving (p. 121) Detail of a Portrait. Paris,
(p. 122)
Sedlmayr Coll. (p. 121)
REMBRANDT'S "SYNAGOGUE" 12I
which is
copied
from van
Vliet's
etching
of a
"Laughing
Man" after
Rembrandt;1
the decision to
copy
this work
being governed,
not
only by
the fact that the
subject laughs,
but also
by
its
similarity
to the traditional
ancient
portraits
of Democritus.
The case of the
portrait by Ciartres,
called "Gaston de
Foix,"
may
be
similar:
it is based on W. de Leeuw's "Portrait of a
young
Man" after
Rembrandt;
and Ciartres
may
have been induced to
give
it this name because
of its resemblence to a
particular picture
in
Paris,
which has
always
been
called Gaston de la Foix and which is attributed to
Giorgione2 (P1. 22f).
But the 'authentic'
portraits
were
really
used
only
to
justify
the
giving
of a name. Even where the
engraver
tries to work as his historical conscience
directs,
it is the work of Rembrandt without
titles,
which is decisive in
characterising
the
subject.
Plato is
represented
in the costume of Rembrandt's
original
and as a
typical
scholar of that
time;
and Gaston de la Foix is made
far more the
youth,
who dies the
early
death of a
hero,
than in
Giorgione's
picture,
which was criticised in the
I8th
century
for
representing
him as
too old.3
The
interpreter
is
evidently striving
to
portray
his
conception
of the
essentials of his
subject;
Rembrandt
provides
him with the means.
The second and more usual method of
producing
such
portraits may
prove
the correctness of this
interpretation.
Since the
imagination
tends
to build
up images
of historical
figures
from a few
particularly striking features,
the
copyist
has to
apply
a
similarly
selective method to the creation of
historical
portraits.
It has been mentioned that Rembrandt's
etching
of
1 This
etching
was also
published
under
the same name
by
Wenzel Hollar
(Payer
von
Thurn, op. cit., p. 5).
The
picture by
Rembrandt is in the
Mauritshuys,
The
Hague (HdG. 543,
Bredius
I34).
2
Ciartres'
print
is not known to me. It is
probably
similar to the
copy
after Rembrandt
by
Backer
(cf. p.
I19,
n.
4, P1. 22g),
for
this
picture
shows
clearly
a thin beard round
the cheekbones as does the authentic
portrait
of Gaston de la Foix
by Giorgione.
It
may
be assumed that Ciartres'
etching
shows the
same beard and that this was his reason for
calling
it Gaston de la Foix.
The
picture
attributed to
Giorgione
is
lost,
but
many copies
are in existence. The work
might be, according
to Dr.
J. Wilde,
to
whom I am
very
indebted for this informa-
tion, by
the hand of the
young
Titian.
3
In this connection the text
accompanying
the illustration
P1.
22f in
J.
Couche's Galerie
du
Palais
Royal (3
vols.
I786-I8o8)
may
be
mentioned :
Ecole
venetienne,
IIIe
Tableau de
Georges Giorgon.
Il
y
a
cependant
une
remarque
essentielle 'a faire sur le Portrait
de Gaston de Foix. L'Histoire
rapporte
qu'il
mourut
t
l'1ge
de
24 ans;
et
cepen-
dant le Peintre
l'a
repr6sent6 beaucoup
plus Age
comme on
peu
s'en convaincre
soi-meme a
l'inspection
du Portrait.
Gaston de
Foix,
Duc de Nemours et
Comtes
d'Etampes,
6toit neveu de
Louis
XII, par
sa
Mare, soeur
de ce
Monarque
celui-ci
repetoit
avec com-
plaisance :
Gaston est mon
ouvrage;
c'est
moi
qui
l'ai 6leve,
et
qui
l'ai form' aux
vertus
qu'on
admire
deja
en lui. Ce
jeune
H6ros ne d6mentit
point
les
esperences
qu'on
avoit
congu
de ses talens.
Envoyez
en Italie
pour
soutenir les droits de son
oncle,
il a rendu son nom
'
jamais
cel6bre
par
la Bataille de Ravenne
qu'il gagna
le
jour
de
Paques
II
Avril
1512.
Il voulut
apres
le combat
envelopper
un reste
d'Espagnols qui
se retiroient
:
mais son
Cheval
ayant
6t6
renvers6;
il
reput
dans
le c6t6 droit un
coup
de
pique qui
lui
donna la mort. Louis
XII,
en
apprenant
cette
nouvelle, s'6cria; je
voudrois
n'avoir
plus
un
pouce
de terre en
Italie,
et
pouvoir
t
ce
prix
faire revivre mon cher
Neveu,
Gaston de
Foix,
et tous les braves hommes
qui
ont
peri
avec lui. Dieu nous
garde
de
remporter jamais
de telles victoires!
122 L. MONZ
an Old Man
(P1. 22a)',
which served as model for the
Plato,
was used
by
another
publisher-Moncornet-as
the
portrait
of
Agrippa
of Nettesheim
(P1. 22d). Now,
it is
completely
different from the historical
portrait
of
Agrippa,
who was
beardless;2
and the
only explanation
is that a venerable
costume and a
flowing beard-symbol
of mature
age
and
thought-so
completely represented
for this
copyist
the idea of a
philosopher,
that he did
not trouble to consult the authentic
portraits.
The same method of
applying
a name to a head on the basis of
purely
emotional characteristics is to be found when Rembrandt's "Head of a
young Man,"
which for Ciartres became Gaston de la
Foix,
is turned
by
the Dutchman
Schabaelje
into a
portrait
of the biblical
Joseph (P1.
23a)
and
by
a third
publisher, probably Aubry
in
Strasbourg,
into the
philosopher
Epicurus (P1. 23b).3
There is no need to
point
out that the likeness to
Joseph
is
quite imaginary.
The downcast
eyes
of Rembrandt's
young
man
are
signs
of
modesty
and
humility,
and the rich costume shows that these
virtues received their reward. This is sufficient to make the
picture
convincing
for all who know that it
represents
the biblical
Joseph.
It
becomes an
equally convincing portrait
of
Epicurus
for those who think
of him
only
as the
philosopher
of sensual
pleasure.
This is not the true
Epicurus,
and there are ancient ideal
portraits,
in which his face is lined
with sorrow
(P1. 22e).
For the seventeenth
century publisher,
however,
Epicurus
was
simply
the
philosopher "qui
mettoit tout le bonheur dans la
volupte."
In this
case, youth
has become
sensuality;
and the
costume,
which
represented
heroism in the case of Gaston de la Foix and
riches,
the
reward of
virtue,
in the case of
Joseph,
is for this
publisher
associated with
voluptuousness.
The
interpretation
of the Rembrandt
prototype
is,
there-
fore,
largely
conditioned
by
the idea with which it is
approached.
Naturally,
with this
method,
those
parts
of Rembrandt's
original
are
emphasised
which have a
special bearing
on the
copyist's
endeavour to
portray
an historical
person.
This can
easily
be seen
by comparing
the
downcast
eyes
of
Joseph
and
Epicurus, signifying
in the one case
chastity
and in the other
sensuality.
However
interesting
this
phenomenon may
be in
itself,
it also leads
to some assertions of a
general
character on Rembrandt's work. If it was
possible
that one and the same model could be
given
so
many
and
yet
such
plausible
names,
it would seem
that,
for these
copyists
in Paris and the
provinces,
Rembrandt's works were
charged
with
meaning
and
emotion;4
1 The same old man was often used
by
Rembrandt as a model.
Only
the
etchings
in which he
appears may
be mentioned :
H. 28
(1630),
H.
27 (1630),
H.
47 (1631),
H.
48,
H.
49,
H.
26,
H.
93 (1632),
H.
94
(1632).
2An authentic
portrait
of
Agrippa
of
Nettesheim in H.
Morley, Life of
C.
Agrippa,
1856.
3
The
Epicurus engraving
has never been
published
before. A
comparison
with the
Heraclitus
print copied
after Rembrandt's
"Judas" (repr.
in
Payer
von
Thurn, op.
cit.,
pl. 5)
shows that the
Epicurus
must
belong
to the series
published by
Pierre
Aubry
in
Strasbourg.
4
A
process
here takes
place
similar to that
described
by
Wilhelm
Fringer,
"Deutsche
Vorlagen
zu russischen
Volksbilderbogen
des
I8.
Jahrhunderts," Jahrbuch
fiir
historische
Volkskunde, II, Berlin, I926.
This
process
is
based on the laws of "archaic
seeing,"
about
which cf. L.
Muinz
and V.
L6wenfeld,
Das
plastische
Gestalten
Blinder,
Brtunn,
1935, P. 76
f.
REMBRANDT'S "SYNAGOGUE" 123
apparently they
did not see in his studies of heads a mere
rendering
of matter
of fact
reality.
Moreover,
from their
technique
can be
judged
what else
in Rembrandt's work attracted them most. However much these versions
change
Rembrandt's
chiaroscuro,
there remains the
attempt, inspired by
Rembrandt,
to
place
the
portraits
in
sharply
divided
light
and
shade,
in
order to
give
these men from the distant
past
as much
actuality
as
possible.
Two essential elements in Rembrandt's art
were, therefore,
taken over
by
his
contemporary interpreters.
And, though
these
engravings
in their
debased form
may
at first
sight
seem remote from
Rembrandt, they appear
to be much closer to
him,
when one bears in mind the
principles underlying
the manner in which the
images
were constructed.
Certainly they
are
closer to him than those two
recent,
but
happily
now
absolete,
aesthetic
approaches,
from which Rembrandt's work was seen either as realism
empty
of all emotional content or as a
magic
of
light
and shade so
exalted,
so
unique
and
intangible,
that all
attempts
to search for a
meaning
became
irrelevant.
Strange
as the
process
of
naming
and
adapting
Rembrandt's heads
for different
purposes may appear to-day,
a
process
in which neither a
genuine portrait
nor the faithful
copy
of a work of art is
achieved,
there
is a real
psychological experience
behind it. In
fact,
these educated
engravers working
for
popular consumption only repeat,
with
very
different
results,
what Rembrandt on another
plane,
like
every artist,
constantly
did himself. In his work there are countless occasions when a
figure,
at
first
only interesting
him as a
portrait
or a
physiognomical study,
is then
used in a historical
picture
and endowed with emotional and
significant
characteristics,
so that it
quite
transcends the intrinsic
appearance
of the
original
model.' This is a
spontaneous
creative act which harks back to
primaeval
methods of
forming image
and
symbol.
Though
it is certain that the author of a work which is not
entirely
unequivocal
can alone
supply
the clue to its
particular meaning,
it is
equally
true that the task of
every
scholar in the field of art is to determine the
special
associations and ideas which ruled the mind of the artist. In this
task the
discovery
of a lost title
may play
an
important part.
But the
approach
of the scholar
endeavouring
to trace a title is
diametrically opposed
to that of the
interpreters
whom we have been
discussing.
While
they
were
using
a
genuine masterpiece
for a
specific purpose,
the scholar is
trying
to find a clue to the better
understanding
of the work of art.
And,
in the
case of
Rembrandt,
this clue
may
be
particularly valuable;
for his realism
is often so
intense,
that the effect
is, misleadingly,
that of a mere imitation
of nature.
1 One
example,
overlooked until
now, may
be
mentioned;
the
adaptation
of the
drawing
HdG.
715
in Paris
(repr.
F.
Lugt, Inv. gindral
des dess. du
Louvre,
"Ec.
Hollandaise," III,
I933,
Pl.
37,
No.
II64)
for the face of the
kneeling priest
in the
foreground
of the Ecce
Homo
etching
of
I635
(H.
I43).
From the
features
making up
the individual character
of the
person represented
in the
drawing
those
are
selected for the
etching
which
could be used to
convey
the
signs
of wicked-
ness.
124
L. MONZ
This
may
be illustrated
by
an
example
of false
nomenclature,
which
originated
in the
eighteenth century.
Rembrandt's "St.
Jerome
in his
Cell"
(H. 201)
was called the
"Spiral Staircase,"' owing
to the fact
that,
for the casual
observer,
the cardinal's hat and the lion
merge
into
darkness;
and the
etching
thus
appears
to be a scene from
everyday
life. But the
true title
produces
a
wholly
different attitude in the
spectator;
the Saint
is then
slowly perceived
remote and
secluded.
The
light
from the window
falls first and most
strongly
on a small
crucifix,
then on a skull and
finally
leads to S.
Jerome,
who has
paused
in his
writing.
He is the centre of
the
composition;
and the
objects
illumined
by
the
light
from the window
seem to
suggest
that the Saint is
pondering
on salvation and on
vanity,
as he works on his translation of the
Scriptures. Meanwhile,
the astronom-
ical
globes, symbolising knowledge
of the material
world,
lie in shadow.
Thus,
when associated with the correct
title,
the
etching
is far removed
from the
genre picture
of a
heavy
staircase with a seated
figure,
which it
otherwise
might appear
to be.
It has been
recognized
since about the middle of the
I8th
century
that
S.
Jerome
is the
subject
of the
picture,2
which
can now be seen in its true
light.
But there are still a number of works
by Rembrandt,
the emotional
content of which will elude the
understanding
so
long
as one
approaches
them with their
present
titles in
mind;
for we are all more
subject
than we
think to the influence of names.
In the case of one
etching,
it seems to
me,
a
change
in name
entirely
alters the sense of the work for
anyone
who is unfamiliar with Rembrandt's
manner of
expression
and unaware that in Rembrandt
pure genre
never
occurs. This
etching
which dates from
I648
is now called "The
Synagogue"
(B. I26,
H.
234) (P1. 23d).
Rembrandt's
title,
as with so
many
of his
prints,
has not been
preserved;
and,
since Gersaint and
Bartsch,
it has
always
been
described as follows:
Synagogue
des
Juifs.
Nr. 122. Un
Morceau,
de
4. pouces 9. lignes
de
large,
sur 2.
pouces 7. lignes
de
haut, tres-fini,
& du
bon
tems de ce
Maitre. On voit sur le devant de la
gauche,
deux Vieillars
Juifs,
ou
Docteurs de la
Loi, qui
sont les deux
principales
&
plus grandes Figures;
au-dessus,
on lit sur une
pierre, Rembrandt, f.
1648, qui y
est
grave
d'une maniere
presque imperceptible.
Il
y
en a un dont la main
gauche
est
appuyde
sur un
baton,
& la droite est
placde
sur sa
poitrine;
il
dcoute
attentivement
l'autre qui
lui
parle
avec action. On
appergoit
dans
le fond de la droite une
portion
de
Temple
en
perspective, qui paroit
etre une
Synagogue,
ofi
plusieurs Juifs
entrent &
sortent,
& d'autres
sont assis.
From this
description
one
gets
the
impression
of a
pure genre
scene,
1
This title is to be found in the hand-
written list of the
R6ver
Collection
of
1731,
which was
published by J.
G. van Gelder
and N. F. van
Gelder-Schrijver,
"De Memo-
rie
van Rembrandts
prenten
in het besit van
Valerius
R6ver,"
Oud
Holland,
vol.
IV, p. 13.
2
Gersaint, Catalogue
raisonn6 de toutes les
pi1ces, qui Jorment l'euvre
de
Rembrandt, Paris,
1751, p. 92
: Autre Saint
Jer6me
No.
Io6
...
"il
est coeff6 d'un
espece
de
toque,
ce
qui
feroit douter
que
ce fut un Saint
Jer6me,
si
l'on
n'appercevoir, quoiqu'avec
bien de
la
peine,
un
lyon
couch6
au bas de la
table,
attribut ordinaire de ce Saint."
23
...
<
+
:
ar.
<:-.:r
-text
w P
opA pa
/
/
t•i"
:..
...... .
-E
/ r
t b
. V/
a-Savery, Joseph. Engraving b-Epicurus, published by Aubry (?).
(p. 122) Engraving (p. 122)
c
Rembrandt, "Synagogue."
Detail
(p. 125)
d
Rembrandt,
"Synagogue" (H 234). Etching (p. I24
REMBRANDT'S
"SYNAGOGUE"
125
but, reading
it side
by
side with the
etching,
one is astonished to find that
these
observers, usually
so
exact,
have
mistakenly
described some
figures
as
sitting.
The
etching, however,
shows
only
one seated
figure. Again,
Gersaint,
Bartsch and Claussin describe the
etching
from left to
right,
in
accordance with the absolute size of the
figures,
the
space being
seen as a
recession from
foreground
to
background.' But,
if one looks at the
etching
more
closely, bearing
in mind Rembrandt's
apparently
indirect
yet actually
straightforward
manner of
emphasizing
a
figure,
one's
eye
no
longer
travels
in the direction
suggested by Gersaint;
and the
composition
now
appears
to be
grouped
round the
only
seated
figure.
This
figure,
however incidental
it
may appear
at first
sight,
is not
only
in fact in the
centre,
but also
disposed
in a
light, which,
while
apparently coordinating
it with the rest of the
setting,
at the same time isolates and
emphasizes
it. This effect is
produced
by
the
strong
contrast of
light
and shade all round the
figure,
which obviates
the
apparent neutrality
of its tone value. Once this is
grasped,
the
meaning,
strangely pathetic,
is made clear. For the man who so
unobtrusively
forms
the focus of the
composition
is
being
avoided
by
the other visitors to the
Synagogue.
Pairs of
Jews
can be
plainly
seen in animated
conversation;
and one of the
two,
who are
walking
towards the
background,
looks in a
somewhat
unfriendly
manner towards the man seated on the bench
(P1. 23c).
The situation
suggests
that someone is tolerated in a circle but not
respected,
someone
who, though
seen in a
profile perdu position
which tends
to conceal his
shape
rather than to reveal
it, yet
shows
by
his own
gestures
that his mood is far removed from
quiet contemplation.
One has
only
to look at the
way
in which the hand is held. The idea is unavoidable
that,
among
a
group
of men who
belong together,
one is seated
quite
alone, ignored,
in tormented
conflict,
full of
misgiving.
Is it
Judas,
contemplating
his crime or stricken with remorse ?2 I do not know. And
1
In the
catalogue by
I.
F. C. Backer of
the collection in Rembrandt's house in
Amsterdam
(Amsterdam, I925)
is a
sug-
gestion
that the
subject may
be drawn from
a
play.
This is
probably
true. But the trail
which Backer in the
footsteps ofJ. Prins, Joods.
Maanschrift
(an
article which I have been
unable to
obtain)
follows
up
seems to me
to lead
away
from the correct
interpretation.
The
argument put forward,
as evidence
for the
play,
that one of the
persons
is
wearing
a
mask,
is
wrong,
and the
excessively
broad
earflaps
of the man's
cap may
well have
been
responsible
for this
faulty
observation.
The
inference,
that this cannot be a
syna-
gogue,
leads even further
astray.
Rembrandt
always represents
a
synagogue
as an
old,
more or less mediaeval
building;
and the
fact,
that the
Jews
wear no ceremonial cloaks
is
insignificant
if one
thinks, say,
of Rem-
brandt's
etching
"Christ
turning
the
Money
Changers
out of the
Temple."
The
Syna-
gogue
for him was as much a
place
of
gathering
as a
place
of
prayer.
2
Mediaeval art shows
Judas
in a more
unfriendly light
than
post-renaissance
art.
In the Middle
Ages
the most usual
subjects
were
"Judas
at the Last
Supper," "Judas
holding
the
forty
Pieces of
Silver,"
"The
Betrayal"
and "The
Hanging
of
Judas"
(cf.
W.
Neuss,
Die katalanische
Buchillustration,
p.
122 and
Mohlsdorf,
Fahrer durch den
symbolischen
und
typologischen
Bilderkreis der
christl.
Kunst des
Mittelalters).
After the
Renaissance a more humane attitude to
Judas appears.
There is a
touching
en-
graving by Jean Duvet, showing Judas
in
despair;
there is also a
print by
A. Bloemaert
of this
subject,
with
Judas hanging
himself
in the
background.
Rembrandt in one of
his earliest
pictures painted Judas giving
back
the tribute
money.
It is certain that Rem-
brandt's studio was concerned with the theme
ofJudas
about
I650 (the Synagogue
is
I648);
126 L. MONZ
perhaps
a better scholar of
contemporary
Dutch literature will be able to
point
to a more
apposite literary
source for this dramatic
representation.
In the
meantime, however,
the title
"Judas" may bring
a new
experience,
to those who till now have been misled in their
interpretation
of this
etching
by
the
certainly
erroneous title "The
Synagogue,"
and
may help
towards
a better
understanding
of the
principles by
which Rembrandt was
guided.
that is borne
out,
not
only by
the
drawing
by Rennesse,
corrected
by Rembrandt,
of
"Judas holding
the Tribute
Money"
(cf. Miinz, Jahrbuch
der
Kunsthist.-Slg. Wien,
1935)
but also
by drawings of"Judas returning
the Tribute
Money"
and
"Judas's Despair"
(cf. Valentiner,
Rembrandt
Zeichnungen,
II and
Bredt,
Rembrandt
Bibel,
NT
78). Possibly
too Rembrandt's
"Synagogue" may have
been
inspired by
an illustration such as the
one which was
printed
above the
epistle
for
the
23rd Sunday
after Pentecost.