Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits


RELIGIOUS UTTERANCES – art of faith introduces the reader to humanity’s historic relationship between art and faith. This daily series of articles examines the interlacing of art and faith from across the Anglican Communion. The title of the series, Religious Utterances, comes from systematic theologian Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, whose work seeks “a recovery of humanity’s religious utterances through art.”


Six in a series: Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Visit the Exhibition Online

Theme: Reconciliation

Late in his career, the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn painted a series of portraits with references to religious subjects. Art historians have been at a loss to explain why this artist, living in the Protestant country of Holland in the late 17th century, would choose to create life-size portraits of apostles, saints and other Biblical figures. Some have argued that at the time Rembrandt was painting these richly animated portraits, he was under personal stress. As a series, then, these paintings may be a most intimate record of this great artist’s personal struggles.

During Spring 2005, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC brought together for the first time 17 of Rembrandt’s late religious portraits. The collection is viewable through an extensive online resource at the NGA website. Additional resources, including an in-depth study of Rembrandt’s Abraham Entertaining the Angels, are available here at the National Gallery of Art website.

On View: Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1666, 206 x 205 c. In the collection of The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Image source:

Past Posts