'Self-portrait as a young man', Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1630

A shadowy painting of a man is highlighted by a clever use of light. His right cheek is strongly lit, and behind his head he seems to glow, showing his silhouette.

Oil on panel, 69.7 x 57cm

Accession Number WAG1011

Rembrandt used his early self-portraits to explore the effects of light and to experiment with facial gesture.

This self-portrait was the first painting by Rembrandt to enter a British collection. It was presented to Charles I in the early 1630s by one of his courtiers, Sir Robert Kerr, Earl of Ancrum. Sir Robert had acquired it after a diplomatic visit to The Hague in 1629, along with another painting by Rembrandt 'An old woman: ‘The Artist’s Mother’|', which is still in the Royal Collection today.

The painting remained in the palace at Whitehall until the sale of the Royal Collection after the king's execution in 1649.

An extended essay on Rembrandt's 'Self-portrait as a young man'| is available online as part of our picture of the month series.