Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar, 1659 by Rembrandt

Rembrandt was a much more profound artist than his predecessors. Few autobiographies are as searching as his self-portraits. Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar was signed and dated 1659, ten years before his death. In 1656 he had been declared bankrupt and during the next two years everything he owned was sold. His son and his mistress were shortly to make themselves custodians even of his still-unpainted pictures. Once more he looked in a mirror to take stock of himself, to analyze the problem of his personality. He saw reflected a face lined with age and misfortune. He saw eyes which had searched more profoundly into the human soul than those of any other artist. He saw a mouth and a chin weak, infirm of purpose, manifesting that flaw in his character which had ruined his life. His hands are grasped as though in anguish at the spectacle of a self-ruined man. There exists no painting more pitiless in its analysis or more pitiful in its implications.