Belshazzar's Feast (Rembrandt)

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Belshazzar's Feast
Rembrandt-Belsazar.jpg
Artist Rembrandt
Year 1635 (1635)
Material Oil on canvas
Dimensions 167.6 cm × 209.2 cm (66.0 in × 82.4 in)
Location National Gallery, London

Belshazzar's Feast is a painting by Rembrandt housed in the The National Gallery, London. The painting is an attempt to establish Rembrandt as a painter of large, baroque history paintings.[1][2]

The story[edit]

The story of Belshazzar and the writing on the wall originates in the Old Testament Book of Daniel. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar looted the Temple in Jerusalem and has stolen the sacred artefacts such as golden cups. His son Belshazzar used these cups for a great feast where the hand of God appeared and wrote the inscription on the wall prophesizing the downfall of Belshazzar's reign.

The inscription on the wall is an interesting element in this painting. Rembrandt lived in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam and "derived the form of Hebrew inscription from a book by his friend, the learned Rabbi and printer, Menasseh ben Israel, yet mistranscribed one of the characters[3] and arranged them in columns, rather than right to left, as Hebrew is written."[1][4] This last detail is essential as it relates to the question of why Belshazzar and his advisers were not able to decipher the inscription and had to send for Daniel to help them with it.[5] There seem to exist no plausible explanation why the Babylonian priests were unable to decipher the writing.[6] It does not seem very plausible that the simple measure of writing vertically instead of horizontally rendered the text incomprehensible to the Babylonians.[7]

Painting materials[edit]

Rembrandt's handling of painting materials and his painting technique in Belshazzar's Feast are both exceptional and do not compare to any of his other works.[8] The palette of this painting is unusually rich encompassing such pigments as vermilion, smalt, lead-tin-yellow, yellow and red lakes, ochres and azurite.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The description of the painting on The National Gallery website". Nationalgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  2. ^ "painting fear". The National Gallery. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  3. ^ Littman, R. (1993). "An error in the Menetekel inscription in Rembrandt's "Belshazzar's Feast"". Oud Holland 107: 296–7. 
  4. ^ Hausherr, R. (1963). "Zur Menetekel-Inschrift auf Rembrandts Belsazarbild". Oud Holland 78: 142–9. 
  5. ^ "Daniel 5:1-8". Bible Gateway. Bible Gateway. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Kahn, David (1996). The Codebreakers. The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet. Simon and Schuster. pp. 80–81. 
  7. ^ Colvin, Matt. "Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast". Colvinism. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Bomford, David et al. (2006). Art in the Making: Rembrandt. London: National Gallery. pp. 110–117. ISBN 1-85709-356-9. 
  9. ^ "Rembrandt, Belshazzar's Feast, Pigment analysis". Colourlex. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]