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“The Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt depicts the moment of the prodigal son’s return to his father. In the painting, the son has returned home in a wretched state after he has wasted his inheritance through wastefulness and extravagance. Having fallen into poverty and despair, he kneels before his father in repentance.

The Prodigal Son returns to the farther wishing for forgiveness and a renewed place in the family. His father receives him with a tender gesture of his hands, suggesting compassion. Rembrandt has made the left hand larger and more masculine, and set it on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. It has been suggested that the hands seem to indicate the inclusiveness of both the mothering and fathering gestures.

Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in judgment.

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” is among Rembrandt’s final works, completed within two years of his death in 1669. The painting includes figures not related to the parable but seen in some of these earlier works. The woman at top left, barely visible, is likely the mother, while the seated man, whose dress implies wealth, maybe a friend.

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

  • Title:                   The Return of the Prodigal Son
  • Artist:                  Rembrandt
  • Date:                   1648
  • Medium:             Oil on Canvas
  • Dimensions:        Height: 262 cm (103.1″); Width: 205 cm (80.7″)
  • Type:                   Biblical Art
  • Museum:            Hermitage Museum

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“The Prodigal Son in the Brothel” by Rembrandt

"The Prodigal Son in the Brothel" by Rembrandt

“The Prodigal Son in the Brothel” by Rembrandt

“The Prodigal Son in the Brothel” by Rembrandt depicts the extravagance of the prodigal son, as told in the Biblical parable. The son has asked his father for his inheritance, and this painting shows him squandering his fortune. In the Protestant contemporary Dutch world, the theme of the prodigal son was a popular subject for works of art due to its moral tale.

The people in the painting have been identified as Rembrandt himself and his wife, Saskia. The left side of the canvas was cut to remove secondary characters and focus the attention on the central theme. The painting is signed “REMBRANDT F.”

Saskia

Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612 – 642) was the wife of Rembrandt. She was his model for many of Rembrandt’s paintings, drawings, and etchings.

Saskia fell in love with Rembrandt, who was socially lower and no match for the daughter of a patrician. Saskia also pressed for a speedy betrothal against all conventions demonstrating that she was a strong and independent character.

Three of their children died shortly after birth. The sole survivor was a son, but Saskia died the year after he was born, aged 29.

“The Prodigal Son in the Brothel” by Rembrandt

  • Title:                    The Prodigal Son in the Brothel
  • Also:                    The Prodigal Son in the Tavern or Rembrandt and Saskia
  • Artist:                  Rembrandt
  • Date:                   1637
  • Medium:             Oil on Canvas
  • Dimensions:        161 cm × 131 cm (63 in × 52 in)
  • Type:                   Biblical Art
  • Museum:             Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

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“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

Prodigal son by Rembrandt

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

Rembrandt was moved by the parable of “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” and he made a variety of drawings, etchings, and paintings on the theme that spanned decades.

In the parable, the loyal and obedient son objects to the father’s enthusiastic welcome with celebration and fanfare for the disloyal and disobedient son. The obedient brother questions his father:

“Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.”

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

  • Title:                     The Return of the Prodigal Son
  • Artist:                   Rembrandt
  • Date:                    1626 and 1669
  • Medium:              drawing with pen and brush
  • Dimensions:        19 × 23 cm
  • Type:                    Biblical Art
  • Museum:             Teylers Museum, Haarlem

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“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt is an etching that depicts the return of the prodigal son. The returning son is kneeling before his father on the landing of his parental home. In the doorway are two figures, and a third looks out the window.

After the older son questions the father’s warm welcome and the planned celebration, the father explains to his older son:

“But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.” 

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt

  • Title:                     The Return of the Prodigal Son
  • Artist:                   Rembrandt
  • Date:                    1636
  • Medium:              etching
  • Dimensions:        19 × 23 cm
  • Type:                    Biblical Art
  • Museum:              Original copperplate at the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam

Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the parables of Jesus that appears in the Book of Luke. In the story, a father has two sons. The younger son asks the father for his inheritance, and the father grants his son’s request. However, the younger son is prodigal and squanders his fortune, eventually becoming destitute.

The Prodigal Son is forced to return home empty-handed and intends to beg his father to accept him back as a servant. To the son’s surprise, he is not scorned by his father but is welcomed back with celebration and fanfare. Envious, the older son refuses to participate in the festivities. The father tells the older son:

“you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger brother was lost, and now he is found.”

Jesus’s “Parable of the Prodigal Son” is the third in a cycle on redemption stories, following the “Parable of the Lost Sheep” and the “Parable of the Lost Coin.”

Parable of the Lost Sheep

The “Parable of the Lost Sheep” is about a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep to find the one which is lost. It is the first parable in a trilogy about redemption that Jesus tells after the religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with sinners.

Parable of the Lost Coin

The “Parable of the Lost Coin” is about a woman who searches for a lost coin, finds it, and rejoices. As recounted in Luke, a woman with ten silver coins loses one coin. She then lights an oil lamp and sweeps her house until she finds it, rejoicing when she does. According to Luke:

“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.’ Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting.”

Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn was an innovative and prolific master draughtsman, painter, and printmaker. He is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history.

Rembrandt’s works depict a range of styles and subjects, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies.

Rembrandt

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“Your brother was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”
– Father of the Prodigal Son

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Photo Credit: 1)Rembrandt [Public domain]; 

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