As part of the Rembrandt Year and Dutch Golden Age celebrations in 2019, visitors to Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter will be able to see a very special Rembrandt masterpiece that hasn’t been seen on Dutch soil for 120 years. St. Peter in Prison (St. Peter Kneeling) depicts the saint in jail and illustrates Rembrandt’s adept skill at portraying states of mind and the spiritual in his work. One of Rembrandt’s early works, he painted St. Peter in Prison in his hometown of Leiden in 1631 when he was just 25 years old. On loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the painting is part of the Netherlandish art collection and was once owned by the Belgian Merode family. See it at the Jewish Cultural Quarter from 13 September to 10 November 2019.
- See a Rembrandt masterpiece in Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter.
- Immerse yourself in the wonder of Rembrandt’s development into a Golden Age master.
- Discover cultural treasures and original 17th-century buildings in one of Amsterdam’s historic neighbourhoods.
St. Peter in Prison returns to the Netherlands after 120 years
Religion was a common theme in Dutch Golden Age paintings. Rembrandt’s depiction of St. Peter in Prison not only highlights the artist’s significant skill in the use of dramatic light and shadow but also signifies a radical shift in how these typical images were composed. Inspired by Italian masters, Rembrandt’s portrayal of St. Peter is brought to life through the radiance of warm light and the depth of the dark shadows. This was a revolutionary new direction in portraiture and a hallmark of Rembrandt’s style.
St. Peter’s humanity is at the heart of this image. Locked away in a Jerusalem jail by King Herod, his despair and shame are evident through his lined expression and his general sense of desolation. His gnarled and tortured clasped hands refer to his fisherman roots. Encircled by a mysterious golden halo, the composition is based on The Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. Light played a vital role in Rembrandt’s work and took on a distinct quality representing divinity and spirituality. The keys at his knees signify the kingdom of Heaven, and a miraculous escape for St. Peter, however Rembrandt only hints at this potential through light rather than reveal a ‘happy end’. Rembrandt’s interpretations of familiar subjects broke new ground, placing him at the forefront of a revolutionary new style that would have a lasting influence on generations of future artists.
One of the Netherland’s most beloved artists, Rembrandt was a prolific and innovative figure who is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest ever painters. His life spanned the Dutch Golden Age, a time of remarkable wealth and wisdom for the Dutch empire. Though born in Leiden in 1606, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631, remaining in the city until his death in 1669.
Cultural gems in the Jewish Cultural Quarter
Step back in time and visit the majestic Portuguese Synagogue to witness first-hand the stunning and original Golden Age interior. The grand hall of this beautiful 17th-century building remains unchanged to this day. Concerts are held regularly in the Synagogue, which is sometimes spectacularly illuminated by the light of hundreds of candles. Although it is still used as a place of worship, the Portuguese Synagogue is open to the general public. Don’t miss your chance to experience this exceptional example of Jewish architecture and history. Located nearby is Ets Haim Livraria Montezinos, the world’s oldest functioning Jewish library, which is included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. A unique collection of silver, gold, silk and brocade ceremonial objects is housed in the nearby Treasure Chamber.