Thursday, March 27, 2003

Still on the subject of Rembrandt's teaching methods it is interesting to note that there was an air of theatricality which pervaded Rembrandt's studio practice. He would often explore the nature of biblical incidents by enacting them with his studio assistants. A good example is where he depicts himself carousing and with Saskia posed as a tart on his knee – the epitome of ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Rembrandt encouraged his students to enact similar scenes themselves and very often the notes he wrote on students drawings resembled stage directions – ‘move the ass backward’, ‘Mary must hold the child more loosely’, and so on.

There is an amusing story about the studio play acting which is almost too good to be true. Students had their own.enclosed studio space where they could work from the nude model. One student acting the role of Adam rather too literally was overheard to remark, “Here we are naked like Adam and Eve in the Garden.” When they were discovered by Rembrandt he banged on the door and shouted, “But because you are aware you are naked you are banished out of the Garden of Eden.” The master then drove them out into the street as they tried to get dressed. The account, which reads like a scene from a comedy, was recorded by Arnold Houbraken a student of Samuel van Hoogstraten, a painter who once studied in Rembrandt's studio.

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