Art in focus – April 2023
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1636
Oil on canvas, in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Those readers who saw the Art in Focus page last month may notice that this painting by Rembrandt is remarkably similar in composition to Raphael’s powerful depiction of the transfiguration painted 120 years before. As in the earlier work, the bottom half of this painting shows the natural world of the mountain top. The disciples are gathered round a patch of earth where Jesus was standing only moments before. Cheeky cherubs – uncharacteristic of Rembrandt – play at the margin of the heavenly realm. A giant palm tree spans the two realms of heaven and earth, a symbol of victory or perhaps a reference to Psalm 92: ‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.’ In the centre, Christ stands, bathed in light, and clothed in shining robes. Arms outstretched, scarred palms upward, he gazes into heaven. The disciples strain upwards, the glory of the scene lighting their faces. One falls back with arms outstretched in an echo of Christ’s own. In this earth-shattering moment, a group of very ordinary people are given a glimpse of heaven.
Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney
This article was published in the April 2023 edition of Reform