Virgin and Child in the Clouds, 1641

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Rembrandt often reinterpreted traditional Catholic subjects. His version of the Madonna in the Clouds has the freedom and sparseness of Barocci’s etching (see Mia P.47.1048), but he firmed up the cloud formation in a manner that recalls Abraham Bloemaert (see Mia P.47.79). A significant change that speaks to Protestantism is his placement of the halo on Jesus rather than on Mary, who plays a greater role in Catholic devotion.

Near Mary’s left knee is a face, perhaps an early attempt by Rembrandt to etch Mary’s head in a style closer to Barocci’s or Bloemaert’s. Like those, this face has hair parted in the middle. Rembrandt, however, never showed the Virgin’s head uncovered. He always showed her wearing a head scarf. Realizing his error, he simply inverted the plate and started over.

Rembrandt is not known to have been a member of any church. He and his children were baptized as Protestants, but his mother was from a Catholic family—the kind that may have employed the devotional imagery of Abraham Bloemaert.

Virgin and Child in the Clouds
Artist Life
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Hind 186 os; B.6; Holl. 61 os; B-B.41-H
Curator Approved

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