In Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama--the leading historical craftsman of our era, with a career-long commitment to Dutch history--succeeds with consummate skill in bringing the heroic painter of such masterpieces as The Night Watch and Portrait of Jan Six vividly to life. Returning to the bustling Dutch world with which he first made his reputation in the bestselling Embarrassment of Riches (1987), Schama re-creates Rembrandt's life and times with all the verve and panache of a historical novelist--while never for an instant losing his scrupulous grip on recorded fact and detail. The telling surviving fragments of archival information about Rembrandt's personal and professional history are skillfully embedded in a rich, dense tapestry of the commercial whirl and political hurly-burly of the 17th-century Low Countries--a divided territory, split between the Catholic and Protestant faiths and the contested powers of the Spanish Hapsburgs and the Dutch Republic--with the tentacles of the tale reaching into the most unexpected shadowy corners of European love and war, aspiration and intrigue.
Rembrandt's Eyes is, in fact, two biographies for the price of one. From the outset, Schama contrasts the life of Rembrandt with that of his older, equally talented countryman Peter Paul Rubens, whose meteoric rise and sustained success as a society painter forms a revealing contrast with Rembrandt's unhappier relationship with fame and fortune. The comparison is a telling one. Where Rubens furnishes the wealthy and powerful with glorious reflections of, and visual foils for, their social and political aspirations and glory, Rembrandt can never resist testing the envelope of taste and stylistic acceptability. His challenge to his clients to embrace the shock of his painterly experiments with technique, texture, and composition ultimately produced his downfall. The Amsterdam town council took down his The Oath-swearing of Claudius Civilis, rolled it up, and returned his masterpiece to him to be cut down in an attempt to sell it to a suitable buyer.
This is a gorgeous book to own, too. Rembrandt's Eyes is printed on heavy, high-gloss paper and lavishly illustrated throughout in full color. The double-page color spreads of the most memorable of Rembrandt's works will take readers' breath away. But above all, this is narrative history at its very best, a page-turner and an adventure story that will make the reader laugh and cry by turns in the time-honored tradition of masterly writing. --Lisa Jardine
Simon Schama has a gift, and that is writing history as though it be a novel, or movie, or even, a report of life itself, just happening now, or yesterday; in short, to bring... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Diamonds
The book was near perfect thank you. I lost my copy last year to the Toronto flood of July. This copy makes me feel I've recovered. Ciao!Published 3 months ago by aldo violo
One supposes that the you-are-there, ersatz visceral style of Mr Schama has a place somewhere, in some lost decade. But it is not here. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Jonathan Jackson, Jr.
I love this book! I've been wanting to do some reading on Dutch painters and thought I would start with Rembrandt. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Diane Sultzbach
This is a major work, of the caliber of an art book by Kenneth Clark, Gombrich, Panofsky, or Meyer Schapiro. Read morePublished 17 months ago by James Mahony
Rembrandt's Eyes is one of the 3 or 4 greatest biographies ever written, in my opinion. The relationahip between Rembrandt and Rubens, during the first 200 pages is absolutely... Read morePublished 19 months ago by jacques montaigne
More than anyone ever wanted to know about Simon Schama and his interesting take on a fascinating man in fascinating times.Published 23 months ago by Robin Dearling
This book is so well written it is better than reading a good novel. It places Rembrandt in context so that he is a part of his time while also transcending it. Read morePublished on January 23, 2012 by N. Roberts
I agree with most of the 4 and 5 star reviewers that this is an amazing tour de force. My only objections to keep this from 5 star are the bizarre use of profanity in places where... Read morePublished on August 31, 2011 by KB MD