The painting “Pir Valtasara”, Rembrandt – description

The painting “Pir Valtasara”, Rembrandt – description
The painting "Pir Valtasara", Rembrandt - description - 1

  • Posted by Rembrandt
  • Museum: National Gallery (London)
  • Year: 1635

Description of the picture :

Belshazzara Pier – Rembrandt Harmens van Rhine. 1635. Oil on canvas. 167×209 cm

   The biblical plot of the king of Babylon, Belshazzar, was reproduced more than once in art, but among the most famous paintings devoted to the gloomy prophecy of the death of the empire, Rembrandt’s painting perhaps occupies the highest position.

   The story unfolding on the canvas is this: having received power in Babylon after the death of his father, King Belshazzar staged a grand feast, but when the guests did not have enough dishes, he ordered his servants to bring ritual gold cups and other devices that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of Jerusalem. Having desecrated the shrines in this way, all the guests suddenly and the king saw a hand that carefully displayed the inscription on the wall – “Me, tekel, uparshine.” . Not a single inkwell could decipher the message, only Daniel could have come into force – the mysterious hand predicted the death of Babylon. On the same day, the city was taken by the Persians and the Midians, and the newly made king was killed.

   The picture is designed in the usual tones for Rembrandt – golden, brown, red. Heroes come out of the dark, lit by mysterious letters. The mysterious inscription on the wall in Hebrew is specially made. The artist thought for a long time how to portray the inscription so that it really could not be read, because if you write a prediction from right to left (traditional for Hebrew), then reading it will not be difficult. The output was prompted by a friend of Rembrandt, Manasse bin Israel, who proposed placing the letters with vertical columns.

   Most of the canvas is occupied by the king himself, under his side are his wife, concubines, priests and guards. Their faces are distorted by fright. Horror and thaw are the main leitmotifs of the canvas. Heroes seemed to freeze, paralyzed from what they saw. Even for a modern audience, a weightless hand drawing a sentence to all gathered and the state seems very frightening.

   It is known that work on the picture took two years from the great Dutchman, during which he repeatedly resorted to consultations with rabbis from the Jewish community.