Best paintings of all time: The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt

The Jewish Bride is a work painted by Rembrandt in 1665. The fondness between the couple draws our eye, as does the care and concern they clearly feel for one another. The man tenderly puts one hand on the girl’s shoulder in a half-embrace, placing his other hand on her chest. The heroine touches her companion’s hand with the tips of her fingers. Their heads are angled towards one another, but their gaze is uncertain, and turned inwards, as if they have been completely swallowed up by their feelings. The man is smiling dreamily, whilst the girl has a serious look on her face; her cheeks are adorned with a tender flush of consternation. The two characters look pure and innocent. The artist took particular care over their dress, painting their sumptuous garments in his distinctive way. The dense, overlapping shades of the outfits and adornments were put onto the canvas with a pallete knife, whilst the cityscape in the background is hidden in semi-darkness. Thanks to this approach, the couple appear larger and more alive, as if they are standing right next to the viewer. The combination of red, gold and black lends vibrancy to the work, whilst the strokes that provide relief and the shimmering hues create a romantic, rather intimate atmosphere.

This chef-d’oeuvre acquired its alternative name in the 19th century thanks to a Dutch collector, who wrongly decided that the canvas depicted a girl being given a precious necklace from her father on her wedding day. Experts are now inclined to believe, however, that Rembrandt’s subject was two lovers or a married couple. Their embrace seems too tender and intimate, and the reverently interlocking arms and heads leaning in closer to one another suggest a marital relationship, full of love and concern. One theory has it that the artist was depicting Isaac and Rebecca, while another posits that the picture shows the artist’s son Titus and his wife. An X-ray analysis of the painting revealed that additional elements were present on the canvas that were later removed from the composition by its author. In the original version the female figure was holding a basket of flowers in her hand, for instance. Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Jewish Bride is a lyrical work painted with love and tenderness, that leaves the viewer feeling intrigued not only by the way the title does not seem to match up with the subject, but also by the slight bloom of romantic mystery surrounding the young couple.