Cornelis Claesz Anslo, Mennonite Preacher

Cornelis Claesz Anslo, Mennonite Preacher
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
Etching; late printing on Japan paper 
7-5/16 x 6-3/16 in. (18.6 x 15.7 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

Cornelis Claesz. Anslo (1592–1646), a successful cloth merchant, was also a Mennonite preacher much beloved for his charitable works, which included founding a hofje, or home for the aged. In 1641 Rembrandt created this etching and painted an impressive double portrait of the preacher and his wife. Whereas the painting could be admired by only a close circle of family and followers, in the privacy of Anslo’s home, the preacher could disseminate the portrait prints to his followers as a source of inspiration.

Anslo’s congregation, the Gemeente Waterland (Waterland Congregation) in Amsterdam, was more liberal than other branches of the Mennonite faith, and Rembrandt was sympathetic to its theology and ideals. Many of the artist’s acquaintances belonged to this congregation, including his art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh, who orchestrated portrait commissions for Rembrandt from several Mennonite families. Another member of the congregation, Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel, composed a laudatory inscription for this very etching.

As opposed to the introverted character of the Petrus Sylvius portrait, Anslo is depicted in an active rhetorical pose expounding the word of God. He sits commandingly at his desk, surrounded by the Scriptures. Only his rich attire denotes his professional success. Rembrandt engaged here in one of portraiture’s great challenges—rendering the impression of sound and movement through the silence of visual imagery.

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