Rembrandt and the Human Condition

  • Howard B. White
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives book series (ARCH, volume 90)


The quest of this paper is the quest for the human soul, as I believe Rembrandt understood the human soul to be. As I am not an art historian, I shall have to show that one may find the human soul as a painter saw it by relating art history to the history of political philosophy. Just as in the history of political philosophy there are regions, times, and influences, yet each political philosopher must be one in his own right, so it may be in the history of art. There is, however, an important difference. Philosophy has known but one revolution in its tools: a methodological “logical” one. Of course, there is the invention of the printing press; but that has probably enabled men to pass as philosophers who, as Rousseau said, “In the days of the League would be known only as fanatics.” Art has known several, perhaps many revolutions: canvas, chiaroscuro, the use of shadow to make a rounded figure, and so on. Seldom is there reversion, at least a formal one. Perhaps Cezanne has something in common with antiquity, but not technically. Perhaps Cézanne is closer to the classics than Rembrandt, which does not make him a better painter.


Political Philosophy Human Condition Modern Philosophy Human Soul National Gallery 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard B. White

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