Belshazzar's Feast (1635) by Rembrandt



Rembrandt's interpretation of the tale told in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 5 of the New Testament, in which Balshazar, sixth and final king of Babylon, holds a great feast for his lords. He commands that the gold and silver vessels taken from the Temple of Jerusalem, the house of God, be brought forth so that his friends, wives and concubines might drink wine from them. Immediately, the king sees a hand drawing indecipherable text on the wall. None of Balshazar's sages or magicians can interpret the words, and so at the Queen's suggestion he sends for Daniel, a man of God. Daniel interprets the words, saying that Balshazar's father, Nebuchadnezzar, had been a mighty king of Babylon, and many had feared and respected him; nevertheless, he had not humbled himself before God, and so God brought him low, so that he ate grass in the fields as the oxen do. Balshazar, who already knew this, failed to humble himself before God as well. The writing, so Daniel says, means that God has numbered the days of Balshazar's kingdom, that he has been weight in the balances and found wanting, and that the kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Balshazar died that very night. It is from this tale that we get the phrase "to see the writing on the wall."

Born July 15, 1606 in the city of Leiden, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter and etcher who would become known as one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European history, and the most important in Dutch history. Religious matters and scenes come up often in Rembrandt's works, and his own personal life was fraught with the religious tension of the Reformation; his mother was a Roman Catholic, and his father belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church. As a youth Rembrandt attended Latin school, but had a much more fervent interest in painting, which led to him being apprenticed to a Leiden history painter by the name of Jacob van Swanenburgh, for three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship to Pieter Lastman (for six months), Rembrandt eventually opened up his own workshop/studio in 1624 (or 1625), and soon after began accepting students. In 1629, Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Dutch mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens; Constantijn would procure important commissions for Rembrandt from the court of The Hague, and the exposure led to Prince Frederik Hendrik continuing to buy Rembrandt paintings until 1646. Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631, and there would enjoy tremendous success as a portraitist, and would eventually marry Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a familiar art dealer. After awhile they settled in the upscale 'Breestraat,' what was then becoming the Jewish quarter, and here Rembrandt would find models for his Old Testament scenes. However, the mortgage for this residence led him to financial problems later in life. Their marriage suffered many difficulties, with three of their four children dying shortly after birth, and Saskia dying a year after the third child's death. Rembrandt would eventually have a daughter, Cornelia, by Hendrickje Stoffels, who was originally his maid, though they were not married by church law at the time and as a result Hendrickje was banned from receiving communion by the Dutch Reformed Church. Rembrandt would go on to outlive both Hendrickje as well as his son, Titus, but die a year later in 1669. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery of Westerkerk, a Protestant church in Amsterdam.



Includes a border on all sides to allow for matting and framing.