"Save Rembrandt from the Experts"
Nigel Konstam Exposes the Errors of Modern Rembrandt Scholarship

The Night Watch

A supplement to the criticism of van de Wetering's "Rembrandt the Painter at Work": the need for the human dimension in Rembrandt criticism

Let us compare the figure of Capt Banning Cocq in Rembrandt's Night Watch with Lunden's copy of the same. Lunden was a run-of-the-mill painter who made a good over-all copy of Rembrandt's most ambitious masterpiece. He presumably knew and used precisely the materials used by Rembrandt himself so it is only his sense of form which lets him down and it lets him down in a way which I think must be clear to all once it is pointed out.

Rembrandt's figure is an amusing, penetrating portrait of a captain who is clearly not quite in command: he walks with a slightly drunken swagger. His expression seems to be asking 'why me?' In Lundens near copy none of this comes across - the Captain seems a much more solid and reliable citizen. The difference lies in very subtle differences in the over-all pose which can be perceived even in the two reproductions I have before me where the figures measure less than 9cm in height.(page 198 of "Rembrandt, the Painter at Work"). The difference in the quality of the pace each takes is very striking. It lies in the relationship of the legs and in the balance of the upper body over the legs. Rembrandt's man is nearly toppling backwards. If we compare detail with detail it is very difficult to see the difference but seen as a whole I guess anyone can see what I am talking about.

Capt Banning Cocq in Rembrandt's Night WatchLunden's copy

Looking at the heads, see how Rembrandt's contributes to the dynamic of the whole and Lundens does not. First the placing of the head on the shoulders is quite different, Lundens is more forward, more balanced, I guess a good 4cm further forward than that implied by Rembrandt in real space. Measured on the canvas the difference may be minute but its implications are great.

Rembrandt has also divided the light from the dark much more decisively than Lunden which makes Lunden's version seem more pudding-like. Rembrandt cuts a plane of shadow down one side of the nose which continues through the mustache and into the beard. He cuts another plane in light on the other side of the beard which is again echoed in the larger mass of hair under the hat and in the lower part of the face adjacent to the beard. Rembrandt continues this planar geometry in the outer brim of the hat on either side, Lunden does not. Lunden's hat shows more crown and his collar is deeper, the direction of the opening of the collar in Rembrandt's implies a puffed chest beneath, Lundens does not. We find the same failures to catch Rembrandt's sense of space in the figure with the rifle to his left and in fact all over. Lundens must have used measurements across the surface of the canvas to place the parts and he looked carefully detail by detail but that is not accurate enough to catch Rembrandt's subtle meaning which is built on space geometry. Unless you read it as a whole, spacially you dont get it.

This example is intended to demonstrate first that the interpretation of nature is not quite the job for simpletons that art historians seem to suppose. (Be assured that copying a painting is a good deal easier than 'copying nature'). Second it shows the spacial nature of Rembrandt's geometry, third and most importantly the necessity of considering the human context of Rembrandt's art.

Rembrandt's vision depends on being seen as a whole and in its human context. Stylistic criticism has blinkered the minds and fogged the issues. In his book, Van de Wetering puts his finger on the root cause of the Rembrandt disaster when he contrasts the critical methods of Hoogstraten (one of Rembrandt's students) with that of Wolfflin (the modern method) on page 181. He says Wolfflin's 'abstract pictorial catagories can be appreciated without reference to any depiction of reality'. In other words Wolfflin's limited vision has no room for the discussion of Rembrandt's greatness. Hoogstraten's ideas writes van de Wetering "hold not the slightest appeal within the conceptual framework we have constructed around the phenomenon of style." Rembrandt has all but disappeared under the impact of stylistic criticism because he does not conform in the very least to the ideas “we have constructed around the phenomenon of style” an excellent reason for abandoning those ideas. Alas too many scholars have committed too much of their effort to creating a new image of Rembrandt for them to be able to change course. We must insist that they do.


  • 08:14 - 16.02.2010

    Nigel's new YouTube Video comments on the Getty Exhibition of 2010 Rembrandt and Bol

  • 10:57 - 04.07.2008

    See Nigel's YouTube Contribution to the campaign to unseat Sir Nicholas from his 21 Year reign at the Tate Gallery London. Sir Nicholas Serota Considers a New Aquisition for the Tate Gallery

    Take this link

  • 23:00 - 09.04.2007


    The recent 2 x 60min Channel 4 documentary (shown July 21st, 28th 2007)
    (made by Lion Television) including Nigel Konstam's contribution to our understanding of the art of ancient Greece (the revolutionary demonstration of why we can be certain that Phidias and his workshop used body casts as the basis of there life-size, sculptural compositions) in Part II.

    You can see the whole story in my book;- SCULPTURE, the Art and the Practice, 2nd edition ISBN 0 – 9523568 or, less completely, on the website www.verrocchio.co.uk

  • 09:53 - 12.10.2007

    Click here to watch 5 minute video on the Adoration

    National Gallery Rejects The Adoration

     National Gallery Rejects The Adoration - see video on its web site

    There are two versions of The Adoration of the Shepherds, one in Munich and the second in the National Gallery (London). Both were once attributed to Rembrandt: The Munich version is still a Rembrandt. The London version has been de-attributed by the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) in spite of the fact that the National Gallery experts examination of the materials confirmed that the painting was from Rembrandt's studio. The object of this demonstration is to prove that the London painting is truly a Rembrandt though the RRP insists that this version cannot possibly be by him.

    See Large image

    On the right of the photograph you see a maquette made from the figures and architecture in the Munich painting, that Rembrandt observed and painted direct from life. A cow and a basket also form a part of the composition.

    The reflected part of the photograph you see in the mirror (on the left) matches up with the subject matter of the London painting to such a degree that we cannot doubt that Rembrandt (or whoever else was painting from Rembrandt's precise position) painted what he saw in the mirror. As the use of a mirror can be demonstrated many times in Rembrandt's accepted drawings it is most rational to assume that Rembrandt stayed in the same position and painted both paintings; probably concurrently, with the same palette and brushes.

    It is amusing to note that while the humans are static, only the cow moved: the hats of the figures remain the same, the basket on the post is seen in elevation in the Munich version and in plan in the London version, the lantern is still carried by the man with the broad brimmed hat, lots of tiny details are transmuted but most of all the infinitely complex space relationship between the figures remains constant.

    By understanding the extreme complexity of the task of constructing the London subject from the Munich painting, we can be certain that a mirror was used.(This is no simple print image. It is a reversal of a new point of view of the same very complex, three dimensional group we see in the Munich painting.) From this understanding we not only regain a lost Rembrandt, we demonstrate that the impressionistic style of the London painting is also Rembrandt's. Thus widening the stylistic spectrum that has been imposed arbitarily by the RRP.

    Furthermore it is proved that Rembrandt worked from a theatrical-type production. I believe he set up live models dressed with costumes (mentioned in his inventory of 1656) in the adoration paintings, I believe the scene was staged in a barn. These tableaux-vivants, the very life's blood of Rembrandt's work as artist and teacher, are implicitly denied by the RRP and their followers, who are keepers of Rembrandt drawings in the museums: a fundamental error, which invalidates many of the experts' judgements over the last 100 years.



    Two legitimate questions may arise from this demonstration 1. did mirrors of this size exist in Rembrandt's time? Answer � not made from one sheet of glass � this large mirror was probably made of polished metal. And 2. Why should he work from an inadequate reflection of his models when he had a group to observe direct from life? Answer � Rembrandt was not alone in the barn. There are student versions of this same scene, both drawn and painted, that show that students were working side by side with the master, each with their own individual viewpoint. This would have inhibited Rembrandt's freedom to move himself or change the group of models. Alternatively, it may just be Rembrandt's explorative spirit that drove him to this single experiment, which he never repeated in painting, but many times while drawing.



    If you have doubts please look at the rest of this website before submitting your questions.

    It is my belief that the other end of the spectrum of style in Rembrandt's paintings should also be redefined by testing a painting in The Wallace Collection: The Uncharitable Servant. This painting was once the most highly valued Rembrandt in the world. It has been described as Rembrandt at the extreme limits of his ability, it is not typical of Rembrandt but Rembrandt is a most varied artist and we need to define the outer limits of his variability as precisely as possible. If The Uncharitable Servant, was put through autoradiographic tests this would show us the way the painting had been built up right from the original drawing on canvas, thus establishing a clear attribution. The result of this could be to re-inflate Rembrandt's oeuvres and reputation back to where they both stood 50 years ago. If the London painting turns out not to be a Rembrandt the case for widening the spectrum towards a loose impressionistic style remains imperative.

  • 10:29 - 24.11.2008

    Take link to see video
    Recent video (Takes only 2 minutes to watch) by Nigel Konstam



Current Rembrandt Scholarship....