Rembrandt: A Virtual World Tour

Second Stop: St. Petersburg, Russia

The State Hermitage Museum

Today's journey takes us to The State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg, Russia. It is one of the largest museums in the world and boasts over 3 million exhibits. Its foundation dates back to 1764, when Catherine the Great purchased an extensive collection of Western European paintings. It is now home to the world's best collection of Dutch Baroque artwork including the star of our show: Rembrandt vin Rijn. There is an entire hall named The Rembrandt Room dedicated to the artist. Dozens of paintings by Rembrandt and his pupils adorn the walls salon style. The most monumental piece on display - Sacrifice of Isaac - is the subject of our journey today.

Sacrifice of Isaac

1635, oil on canvas
courtesy of
The State Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg

Abraham's Sacrifice

1655, etching on laid paper with pen and ink ruled lines
Currently on display at Elverhøj Museum
Collection of Howard & Fran Berger, gift to the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art

This scene is one of the most iconic moments in biblical history and speaks to the viewer on a very human level. God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his faith, only to send an angel to stop him at the last minute. The greatest test of faith comes with the ultimate emotional challenge.

These two works are separated by twenty years during which Rembrandt experienced life-changing events. The painting predates Rembrandt becoming a father, yet his rendering of the scene is more dramatic, with the angel suspended from the heavens and Isaac laid helpless on the ground, hands bound behind his back. In both works, Abraham shields his son's eyes.

Rembrandt's son, Titus, is thought to be the model used for the angel in the etching. Abraham’s face conveys tormented emotion and a sense of surprise at the sudden arrival of the angel who encircles him and grasps his arms. Abraham's eyes are darkened, symbolizing blind faith.

Interestingly, although Rembrandt achieved success and fame in his lifetime, the artist went bankrupt and was forced to sell of most of his work and belongings just one year after the etching was completed.

These two works are evidence as to why Rembrandt was called "one of the great prophets of civilization." His abilities to convey emotion and inspire empathy for the human condition are just as powerful today as they were in the 17th century.

Next week's stop: Cleveland, Ohio

Stay safe,

The Elverhøj Team

Jordan Staircase of The Winter Palace at The State Hermitage Museum

The Winter Palace is the main building out of the five historic structures that house the museum's collection. Due to COVID-19 The State Hermitage Museum is temporarily closed. Visit their website to explore their extensive collection and take a virtual tour.

ELVERHØJ MUSEUM of History and Art

1624 Elverhoy Way
Solvang, CA 93463


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