Blindness and its Significance in the Works of Rembrandt


Since his arrival into the art world Art historians have been attempting to tap into the world of Rembrandt. Hundreds upon hundreds of books have been published all trying to do so. Upon conducting a search through Amazon.com keyword "Rembrandt" it returned to following: 401 different books about the life and works of Van Rin. And these are the ones that are still in print not to mention all the articles, movies, journals…well you get the point. Has anyone really figured out this artistic genius? I wanted to find that one thing that bound all of Rembrandt’s works together. It was one of Rembrandt’s own quotes that led me do so. "Try to put well in practice what you already know. In so doing, you will, in good time, discover the hidden things you now inquire about." So using what I already know I asked the question: What is it that separates Rembrandt apart from the rest of the art world? His painting are famous for being clouded, their figures emerging from, or buried deep in darkness, why the very surface of the canvas would be so rough and coarse and stumbled, as though to insist that the surface of things was not important. as though to force you the viewer to look beyond the merely visible world to what is invisible? (Mee, 76) As though viewing the world through the eyes of a blind man? Although the frequent occurrence of blindness in "Rembrandt" is well known I feel that it is a theme far to common to ignore. I have elected to give more insight into how and why this theme found it’s way into so many of his paintings. Through a further analysis of "Rembrandt’s" paintings, etchings and drawings I will conclude that blindness plays more than just a small role in works of this genius.


Approximately 80 or 90 percent of the human sensory stimuli comes through the eyes. Therefore, the loss of vision automatically changes the course of the victim\'s life. Reading, writing, finding items easily, walking without the fear of hitting obstacles, responding to other people\'s gestures, and naturally working become impossible. Depression is very common among people facing sudden, permanent blindness. Self-esteem is compromised as the victim becomes to a large extent dependent on other people in most everyday routines and cannot usually do productive work. Blindness is a heavy tax on both the family of the blinded person and the society as a whole. Rehabilitation and care of the victim takes up a lot of both human and material resources. Direct and indirect costs of sudden blindness include medical treatment, rehabilitation, therapy, and retraining of the victim, time spent on guiding and helping the blinded person, and the lost working years of the victim.


The first trace of the “Blind” theme
The first real painting that Rembrandt ever did was of his Father. 00


It seems that he becomes so facinated with the blindness idea it will even find it’s way into works where it isn’t the main focus. For Example in the Return of the Prodigal Son where we can’t be sure of the Father’s blindness all we can tell is that he is an older man whose eyes seemed to be closed slightly.


What is the reason behind for this reoccurring idea? Well although there is no definate answer. We can speculate that it was one of a few things. Perhaps it his own Father’s lost of vision toward the end of his life. Or because like his father developed eye problems in his fifties.


It is a well documented fact that Rembrandt took a liking to the story of sampson





The Paintings


Rembrandt\'s "Angel and the Prophet Balaam"


"The Blinding of Sampson"


The Blindness of Tobit


Blindness in rembrandt’s art is most revelant when he depicts stories from the bible. Altough, he was well scriptured and new many of the Bible’s stories. There were s few that he favored above the rest. Throughout his lifetime Rembrandt painted, drew and etched fifty different works all focused on themes from the book of Tobit. The story is not in most Bibles because it is a Persian folk tale, which has no connection to the spiritual history of the Jews. But