Digital reproduction of 317 known paintings, 285 etchings and more than 100 drawings of Rembrandt van Rijn go on display next week at the former Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
Ernst van de Wetering, a leading Rembrandt scholar who supervised the project, said that the exhibition, unique in its kind, will offer viewers “a walk through Rembrandt’s mind.” All works will be reproduced in their original size and shown chronologically. He argues that the reproductions have the advantage of stripping away the aura of awe viewers often have when they see an original, which hinders their assessment of the work.
If that is not enough, some have been digitally enhanced by Van de Wetering himself, hoping to restore the color and detail they had when they left Rembrandt’s studio nearly 400 years ago.
Here, one may see Van der Wetering’s point and one may miss it entirely. Perhaps it’s a matter of assuming a realistic point of view. Without splitting hairs, the exhibit is at least (or cynically, at most) a very good and very big Rembrandt unfolded art book.
Being a painter, I am pretty well trained to look at paintings, so if aura is there, I assume it is produced by the inner workings of the painting itself and not for other reasons. And again being a painter, the virtual restoration part leaves me puzzled. I accept age and decay as well as the aging and decaying of paintings. One may reasonably suspect Rembrandt did too.
“The Complete Rembrandt, Life Size”
the former Amsterdam Stock Eschange, Amsterdam
July 5 – Sept. 7. 2009