OIL PAINTING: Belshazzar's Feast, 1635
Rembrandt's intense familiary with the physiognomies of the Spanish Jews (the Sephardim) and the Eastern Jews (the Ashkenazim), who were allowed to live in Amsterdam in relative freedom during the seventeenth century, helped him to enrich his biblical representations. His interest in them was not merely a romantic and pictorial one. To Rembrandt the Jews were the people of the Bible, and with his deepening realism he wanted to become more authentic in his biblical representations. He found among them inspiration for mildly passive and emotional characters, and he also studied the harder and more intellectual types, who show the perseverance of the Jews and furnished models for his figures of the Pharisees. Even more remarkable is the series of portraits of Jesus made around the same time which are based on a Jewish model. Rembrandt, it seems, was the first artist to derive his Christ-type from a personal study of Jews.