Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, 16061669)
Oil on canvas; 44 1/8 x 34 1/2 in. (112 x 87.6 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.140)
Gerard de Lairesse (16411711) was, in his day, a well-known painter, etcher, and art theorist. He suffered from congenital syphilis, which caused him to go blind about 1690; he subsequently focused his energies on art theory. By the time this portrait was painted, around 1665, the ravaging effects of the disease were visible in his swollen features and bulbous nose. Recording his unfortunate appearance with an uncompromising directness, Rembrandt invested his subject with an air of quiet dignity. Although the sitter's theories on the ideal in painting were antithetical to Rembrandt's style, which Lairesse disparagingly likened to "liquid mud on the canvas," the portrayal is a sympathetic one.