The Feast of Belshazzar (c. 1635) by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Feast of Belshazzar - Rembrandt van Rijn - 1635

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Feast of Belshazzar
ArtistRembrandt van Rijn
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions209.2 x 167.6 cm
Art MovementBaroque
Current LocationNational Gallery, London

About The Feast of Belshazzar

“The Feast of Belshazzar” is a Baroque religious painting by the celebrated artist Rembrandt van Rijn, completed in the year 1635. This oil on canvas masterpiece measures 209.2 by 167.6 centimeters. The artwork is housed within the National Gallery in London, where it is part of the museum’s extensive collection.

The artwork depicts a dramatic and ominous scene from the Biblical Book of Daniel. The central figure appears to be King Belshazzar himself, dressed in sumptuous clothing, adorned with jewels and a grand headdress. The king’s posture and expression suggest an alarmed reaction as his gaze is fixed upon the divine inscription that miraculously appears on the wall, written in Hebrew script, which spells the imminent downfall of his reign.

Around Belshazzar, one observes the reactions of various figures conveying a mix of fear, awe, and confusion. To the right, a woman, possibly the queen, is seen with a look of distress and bewilderment, her hand suspended in the act of pouring a drink, now forgotten in the shocking turn of events. The other attendants display a spectrum of expressions, from the incredulous wide-eyed man to the person who whispers in another’s ear, likely discussing the portentous message.

Rembrandt’s astute use of chiaroscuro—a technique characterized by strong contrasts between light and dark—is evident here and adds to the dramatic intensity of the scene. The light seems to emanate from the text on the wall, further highlighting its supernatural origin and drawing the viewer’s focus to the words of judgment. The baroque qualities of the artwork are encapsulated in its dynamic composition, emotional intensity, and the theatrical use of light and shadow, all serving to tell the story with compelling visual impact.

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