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Louvre Abu Dhabi to unveil rare Rembrandt painting
February 2019 381

A rare oil sketch by renowned Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn will make its first appearance at Louvre Abu Dhabi this month, said a report.

The masterpiece, The Head of a Young Man in Prayer, will be on display from February 14 to May 18 during the Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection and the Musée du Louvre exhibition, said a report in Wam.

Painted on an oak panel in the Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands) and identified as the Master’s work in the 1930s, it belongs to a series of oil sketches referred to as Rembrandt’s Face of Jesus group.

Head of a young man was purchased by Louvre Abu Dhabi in December and is the first work by Rembrandt known to have been acquired for a public collection in the Gulf region. It will join the Abu Dhabi museum's permanent collection after the exhibition.

The acquisition of this rare masterpiece follows the unveiling of 11 new additions to Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection in October 2018.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), said: "Rembrandt is one of the most prominent figures in Western art history and this acquisition yet again highlights the remarkable quality of both Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection and its exhibitions programme. We look forward to seeing this work unveiled at the museum and confidently look to the future, as we continue to grow our collection and inspire cross-cultural understanding in visitors from all over the world."

Manuel Rabaté, director, Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: "Rembrandt was one of history of art’s greatest storytellers, with an exceptional ability to capture the human soul in his artworks. With this latest acquisition, the first ever Rembrandt joining a museum collection in the Gulf, our visitors can experience the power of his creations first-hand, initially in our opening exhibition for 2019 and following that in our galleries. It will join the 650 artworks of the museum’s collection from cultures around the world, celebrating the universal creativity of humanity."

In Head of a young man, the face of the black-haired man seems to be both illuminated and rendered through large brushed gestures. The same model appears in a series of studies and works by Rembrandt that was created during the same period as the artist’s renowned Supper at Emmaus (Paris, Musée du Louvre, ca. 1648).

Head of a young man is one of the finest examples of Rembrandt’s seven surviving oil sketches from the Face of Jesus group. When viewed with the other surviving sketches, it reveals the way in which Rembrandt could find the best angle or profile to use light to portray Jesus "after life," with the model probably coming from the local Jewish community.

The portrait and subject matter show a new representation in the Christian world. The clasped hands emphasise narrative not distinguishable at first glance. And Rembrandt chose to represent a man in prayer, rather than a king, expressing in an ecumenical way the humble humanity of man.

The exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection and the Musée du Louvre is co-curated by Blaise Ducos, chief curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings at the Musée du Louvre and Lara Yeager-Crasselt, curator of The Leiden Collection and a specialist in 17th century Dutch and Flemish art.

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