Rembrandt van Rijn, Moses with the Tablets of the Law, 1659. Oil on canvas, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.
Master of the Dutch golden age, Rembrandt (1606–69) was a prolific painter, draftsman, and etcher. Moses with the Tablets of the Law is representative of the artist’s style in the 1650s, when he was interested in deep colors, exaggerated brushstrokes, and an uneven use of light. A rich gold dominates the painting, swirling tumultuously behind Moses. Here, the light does not come from without but rather emanates from the prophet’s face. Unlike his early commercial portraiture, with fine brushstrokes and a smooth surface, Rembrandt’s later paintings are full of texture. The style lends itself well to the subject of Moses smashing the tablets of the law. The exaggerated brushstrokes that allow us to read exhaustion on Moses’ face stand in stark contrast to the smooth, weighty surface of the stone tablets.