Just for a change of pace, I'm going to take a break from my usual scurrilous and derogatory rebuke of religious intrusion into government and our personal lives. How about art and Humanism?
This painting is a mindblower. You probably saw it a thousand times on an old Dutch Masters cigar box without realizing the significance. To me, it’s one of the greatest paintings I ever saw.
Imagine you’re in Amsterdam in the early 1600s, Elizabethan times. You see an imposing office building and decide to enter, uninvited, just to see what’s going on. You open the stately door, take a few steps to the middle of a large conference room, and stop a few feet in front of a table. What would the reaction of the businessmen be? They were working on an important clothe deal and you interrupted.
I always liked Beethoven’s line about music being to express feelings and emotions where mere words fail. Rembrandt does the same with art. Every one of the Syndics, the Six, has an expression of “Yes, what is it? Can’t you see we’re busy? What do you want?”
But even with the same reaction to the event, the genius portrays wonderful variation. We can see their individual personalities. The second gent from the left is perturbed and even suspicious, (you can tell he had strict, control-freak, Calvinist parents, right?)
The leader of the group, however, the one with his hand extended (that juts out of the painting magically, like the sword in “The Night Watch”) has a more patient reaction, as if to say, “c’mon, tell us, perhaps it’s important.” The man on the right, the low-ranking isolate of the group, also takes a kindly pose because he knows how it feels.
Just as in opera, if you know the story behind what going on, it adds immeasurably to the beauty of the sensation.
Rembrandt was a great humanist as proven by his late self portraits. To a humanist the truth is more important than ego. He depicted himself slowly going mad.