Rembrandt’s hometown displays his oldest paintings

Painted at the age of 18, the works from the famous “series of the senses” are presented together for the first time at the De Lakenhal museum in Leiden

Rembrandt’s early works, painted when the Dutch master was just 18, will soon be exhibited together for the first time in his hometown of Leiden.

Leiden’s De Lakenhal museum, believed to be very close to where Rembrandt’s studio would have been, presented the collection of four paintings to the media on Thursday.

The works are part of a series that represents the senses: “Seller of glasses (allegory of sight)”, “Three musicians (allegory of hearing)”, “Unconscious patient (allegory of smell)” and “Operation with stone (allegory of touch). It is tantalizing that a fifth Rembrandt in the series, “the allegory of taste,” has never been found.

“It’s very mysterious. “We are pretty sure that Rembrandt painted five paintings in this series, because there are five senses and not four,” said museum curator Janneke van Asperen. And she added: “We have no idea where he could be. Maybe he’s still there, someone has him lying in the attic. Or maybe he’s gone. Of course, we hope to find it.”

The works show that even at a young age, Rembrandt was willing to break with convention, according to the museum. At that time, the senses were generally represented by elegant female figures. “The talent we see in these works is already exceptional,” said Van Asperen.

However, there are some aspects of the works that are clearly the work of a very inexperienced painter, such as the depiction of the heads, he said.

The early works show signs of what would become Rembrandt’s signature qualities, such as broad brush strokes and the use of chiaroscuro, an oil painting technique that involves strong contrasts between light and dark to create three-dimensional figures with dramatic effect.

“Of course, he will become a teacher and we are seeing the beginning of that here,” the curator said. For his part, Tanja Elstgeest, director of the museum, said: “We hope to be able to present to Dutch and international visitors the first works that emerged from his hand and the talent that the artist already demonstrated at such a young age.”

The images will be available for public viewing from January 20 to June 16.