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SCHAMA, Simon

Rembrandt’s Eyes

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Most of all though, and for an entire decade, Rembrandt measured himself compulsively against "the prince of painters and the painter of princes" Peter Paul Rubens. To become singular, Rembrandt had first to become someone's double.

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And certainly Rembrandt ended up being the kind of painter Rubens could not possibly have imagined, much less anticipated. But for the crucial decade of his formation, the years which saw him change from being a merely good to an indisputably great painter, Rembrandt was utterly in thrall to Rubens.

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In his last years, in the 1660's, Rembrandt was . . . a figure of fierce controversy whose immense reputation attracted both champions and denigrators. It may have even grated on the nerves of his domestic critics that Rembrandt, whom they patronized as indecently quaint, and whose coarseness stuck out like a sore thumb among the decorous, academic hands of the practitioners of the 'clear' style, seemed still to have so many admirers from abroad.

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