In 1914 Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who would later become the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the State of Israel, visited the National Gallery in London. His aesthetic sensibilities were aroused by the artistic grandeur, which he encountered there. He was particularly transfixed by Rembrandt's paintings:

"When I lived in London I used to visit the National gallery and my favorite pictures were those of Rembrandt. I really think that Rembrandt was a Tzadik (a righteous person) Do you know that when I first saw Rembrandt's works, they reminded me of the legend about the creation of light? We are told that when God created light it was so strong and pellucid, that one could see from one end of the world to the other, but God was afraid that the wicked might abuse it. What did He do? He reserved that light for the righteous when the Messiah should come. But now and then there are great men who are blessed and privileged to see it. I think that Rembrandt was one of them, and the light in his pictures is the very light that was originally created by God Almighty." (Jewish Chronicle of London, September 13, 1935).

Rembrandt van Rijn, the master of chiaroscuro, infused his portraits with a transcendental vitality. While this is true of all of his portraits it is certainly the case with his paintings of biblical scenes.

Rembrandt's penchant for the Bible is reflected in the number of biblical portraits, etchings and drawings which he created. In the field of portraiture in general, Rembrandt left four hundred paintings, seventy-five etchings, and only a few drawings. This may be contrasted with the one hundred and sixty painting, eighty etchings and more than six hundred drawing of biblical subjects that have come down to us.

Rembrandt's prodigious activity in this field reflects his love of and intimate knowledge of the Bible. Rembrandt's biblical scenes are not merely an exercise in historical painting, they contain his own and passion and intensity as well as a remarkable degree of his innovative biblical interpretation.

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Commisioned by George S.Blumental
and the Center for Online Judaic Studies
Created by Dr. Bryna Jocheved Levy @ 2002

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