Today’s image is of a picture that was stolen in 1990 and has never been recovered. I like to bring this picture to the public eye every year, in the hope that one day it will be found safe and will be recovered.
Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee was painted during one of the happiest years of Rembrandt van Rijn’s turbulent life and depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. A devout Christian, Rembrandt painted it from the description of the event as reported by the Apostle Mark, in the fourth chapter of his Gospel. As far as is known, it is the only seascape Rembrandt ever painted.
Constantijn Huygens, the father of Dutch mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens, had seen Rembrandt’s talent and helped him gain important commissions from the Court of The Hague. Many of his best religious paintings date from the years during which he had the favor of both Huygens and Prince Frederick Hendrick.
At the end of 1631, Rembrandt had moved to Amsterdam. The city was becoming the new business capital of the Netherlands, so there was great opportunity there for artists. In Amsterdam, Rembrandt had begun to paint portraits for the first time, and by 1633, his work was in high demand. His religious paintings and history paintings were also receiving the highest praise.
At first, he lived with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh, which was where he met Hendrick’s cousin, Saskia van Uylenburgh. During 1633, the year in which Christ on the Sea of Galilee was painted, he was courting Saskia, hoping to marry her. He was earning a good income as a portraitist, and a bright future loomed. He must have felt in many ways as if he had the world by the tail.
What I love about this painting:
Rembrandt’s colors are vivid, standing out against the darkness of the storm. An entire story is captured in this image. The sea is terrifying, monstrous waves battering the ship, men panicking, trying to gain control. The terror of the event is clearly shown, and you feel fear for the men too. In the midst of chaos, Jesus awakes, calm despite the panic around him. Each face has a different expression, and one, a man holding a rope in one hand and pressing his cap to his head with the other, looks directly at us—Rembrandt himself.
The Gospel of Mark records the incident:
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Rembrandt was a man of many frailties but was a devout Christian. He lived the story as he painted it, as do all good storytellers.
About the theft, via Wikipedia:
On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the early hours, guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made, and no works have been recovered.
The stolen works had originally been purchased by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) and intended to be left on permanent display at the museum with the rest of her collection. Since the collection and its layout are permanent, empty frames remain hanging both in homage to the missing works and as placeholders for their potential return. Experts are puzzled by the choice of paintings that were stolen, especially since more valuable artwork was left untouched. Among the stolen works was The Concert, one of only 34 known works by Vermeer and thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting, valued at over $200 million.[when?] Also missing is The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt‘s only known seascape. Other works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and Flinck were also stolen.
Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn
- Artist: Rembrandt (1606–1669)
- Genre: religious art
- Date: 1633
- Medium: oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 160 cm (62.9 ″); Width: 128 cm (50.3 ″)
- Current Location: Unknown
Sources and Attributions:
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee.jpg&oldid=341966464 (accessed April 4, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, “Calming the storm,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Calming_the_storm&oldid=882782126 (accessed April 4, 2019).
The Isobel Stewart Gardner Museum, CHRIST IN THE STORM ON THE SEA OF GALILEE, 1633, https://www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/collection/10953 (accessed April 4, 2019).
This post first appeared in April of 2019.