The return of the prodigal son (c. 1662) by Rembrandt van Rijn

The return of the prodigal son - Rembrandt van Rijn - c. 1662

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Artwork Information

TitleThe return of the prodigal son
ArtistRembrandt van Rijn
Datec. 1662
Dimensions262 x 206 cm
Current LocationThe Hermitage, St. Petersburg
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About The return of the prodigal son


Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Return of the Prodigal Son is a monumental oil painting that was completed two years before Rembrandt’s death in 1669. This masterpiece has been hailed as one of the greatest paintings ever created and is considered a crowning achievement in Dutch art history. The artwork depicts a scene from the biblical story of the prodigal son, where he returns to his father after squandering his inheritance.

The painting’s composition features a patriarchal figure placing his hands on his son’s shoulder, showing love and forgiveness. A religious mood permeates throughout the canvas, emphasizing themes such as redemption, family, and compassion. Rembrandt uses contrasting tones to highlight certain elements like light shining on the father figure’s face and hands to set him apart from other characters in this artwork.

This painting also depicts Rembrandt’s personal and spiritual journey towards redemption during an uncertain time in his life. It reflects his interpretation of mercy seen as a testament to humanity while featuring moving depictions of human figures with expressive faces and gestures that bring out raw emotion. The Return of Prodigal Son presently belongs to Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg where it continues to inspire art even today by its powerful presence as an exemplar of Baroque Christian art worldwide.


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