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Rembrandt’s Eyes

The title of this book reminded me that I was first introduced to Rembrandt’s eyes when I was a boy. “For Rembrandt”, my mother said, as we stood in front of the great portraits of Jacob Trip and Margaretha de Geer in the National Gallery, “the eyes a re the windows of the soul”. If I remember rightly my school art teacher told me the same thing a few years later. But Rembrandt’s art remains remarkably untainted by the clich├ęs that have attached to it in a way that is not true of all great art. The Mona Lisa (‘the eyes follow you round the room’), for example, has certainly been damaged by its over exposure and The Hay Wain barely survives its endless biscuit tin projection as the essence of Englishness. In contrast The Staalmeeste rs or the great self portraits exhibited in London last year slough off all traces of sentimentalism and banalization and confront us with extraordinary living power.