This portrait is a dated picture of 166o when, though he appears older, he was but fifty-four. More than fifty of these self portraits by Rembrandt have come down to us and in this series the evolution of his genius and the development of his personality may be clearly traced. At first they are experiments in light and shade or in the study of assumed expressions, or are incited by his love for fantastic costumes. As time goes on, they become more and more profound in psychological expression, several of these late works being masterpieces of portraiture. “Mirror pictures, as we know,” says Dr. Valentiner, “usually hide under a forced expression that veritable self which drops the veil only when it is unobserved.” Perhaps there is a wilful assumption of expression in some of these portraits, but it is so sustained throughout and so convincing a record of the thought of the moment that it ceases to be affectation. Those who happen to be familiar with the self-portrait of a year or so earlier, belonging to Henry C. Frick, which had the place of honor in the Hudson-Fulton
Exhibition, will find a comparison of the moods of that picture and our work an interesting one. In the portrait owned by Mr. Frick, though it was also painted in a troubled time, he paints himself as though he were a philosopher or prophet to whom all things but his own thoughts are indifferent. In the Altman picture he is prematurely aged by his troubles and is pestered with worries, “the little cares and anxieties of daily life.” His forehead is wrinkled and the mouth is drawn, but the cap is tilted a little jauntily on one side and the head is erect and proud.’
The painting was owned in France in the eighteenth century, being in the collection of the Duc de Valentinois. It appears in England in 1826, when it was noted by Smith in his Catalogue Raisonné as belonging to Lord Radstock. Its owner before its purchase by Mr. Altman was Lord Ashburton.