The Preacher Eleazar Swalmius


oil on canvas
132 x 109 cm
Inventory number 705

Eleazar Swalmius is seated on a chair in a rather dimly lit room and looks straight into the viewer's eyes. Already at age twenty-three, he used to travel from town to town through Holland to preach the teachings of the Counter-Remonstrants. In those days, Swalmius and his fellow preachers caused commotion because of the "blind fervour with which they pursued their quest for spiritual dominance". The portrait of Swalmius by the Dutch master Rembrandt continues to divide opinion centuries on, as eminent Rembrandt experts disagree over the authenticity of the work, even though it is dated and signed. The controversy was due mainly to the thick layer of varnish that used to cover the painting, and which made it impossible to discern the masterly nuances in the black attire and in the wonderful flesh tones. However, the portrait was recently restored and the varnish removed. Subsequently, the museum invited the renowned Rembrandt expert Professor Ernst van de Wetering to study the canvas. He concluded that the portrait is by Rembrandt after all.

From the museum reserve

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp purchased the painting in 1886 as a genuine Rembrandt. However, due to the controversy surrounding its status, combined with a lack of space in the museum, it ended up in the museum reserve and was temporarily forgotten.

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