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Beer In Art #66: Rembrandt’s The Prodigal Son

Today work of art is a return to the old masters, a place we haven’t been for some time now. The artist is Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn better known simply as Rembrandt, one of history’s most famous artists. Today’s painting is officially known as “Portrait of the Artist with his Wife Saskia” though more commonly as “The Prodigal Son” or “The Prodigal Son in the Tavern.” It was painted in 1635 and currently resides in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) in Dresden, Germany. I was fortunate enough to see the original when I was there visiting the Radeberger brewery a few years ago.

In the painting, Rembrandt painted himself hoisting a flute of beer high in the air, with his wife, Saskia, seated on his lap. Set in a tavern, she is dressed as a courtesan while Rembrandt is dressed richly, indulging in his whim and squandering his resources. The painting depicts the Biblical scene from Luke, as explained on Olga’s Gallery:

Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). A man divided his estate between his two sons. The younger went off, squandered his portion in riotous living and was finally, in poverty, reduced to tending a farmer’s pigs. He returned home penitently and was joyfully received by his father who said “My boy, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31). This parable, which teaches the virtues of repentance and forgiveness, is most often represented in art.

You can read more about Rembrandt’s life in the biography at the Rembrandt Painting website, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Web Museum. You can also see more of his work at Complete Catalogue of Rembrandt van Rijn’s Paintings and A Web Catalogue of Rembrandt Paintings.

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