Thursday, October 02, 2008

Anastasius of Sinai

Rembrandt is one of those painters who (whom?) I normally admire, but don’t love. Perhaps it’s just because his name comes up so often that I have tuned him out, or perhaps it’s because some of his paintings in the museums I’ve frequented, like his creepy self-portrait in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek, seemed somehow unpleasant to me. But I just stumbled across a painting of his which I haven’t seen before, of the learned Anastasius of Sinai, which captures what, to me, was great about Rembrandt. The murky light, the weight of the sage’s body, the strangely comfortable solitude. It’s a picture that distills old-school learnedness to its essence: a man, a book, a desk, a window. I could have done without the elaborate Turkish carpet/tablecloth, but nobody’s perfect.

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