Painting “Feast of Belshazzar”, Rembrandt – description

Description of the picture:

Belshazzar Pier – Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn. 1635. Oil on canvas. 167×209 cm
The biblical story about the king of Babylon, Belshazzar, has been reproduced in art more than once, but among the most famous canvases dedicated to the gloomy prophecy of the death of the empire, Rembrandt’s painting, perhaps, occupies the highest position.

The story that unfolds on the canvas is this: having gained power in Babylon after the death of his father, King Belshazzar made a grand feast, but when the guests did not grab the dishes, he ordered his servants to bring ritual golden goblets and other appliances that Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem. Heroes emerge from the darkness, illuminated by mysterious letters. In a special way, a mysterious inscription on the wall in Hebrew is made. The artist pondered for a long time how to depict the inscription so that it really could not be read, because if you write a prediction from right to left (traditionally in Hebrew), then it will not be difficult to read. The way out was prompted by Rembrandt’s friend, Manasse bin Israel, who suggested placing the letters in vertical columns.

Having desecrated the shrines in this way, suddenly all the guests and the king saw a hand that painstakingly displayed the inscription on the wall – Mena, flowed, uparsin. Not a single warlock could decipher the message, only Daniel could do it – a mysterious hand predicted the death of Babylon. On the same day, the city was taken by the Persians and the Medes, and the newly made king was killed. The picture is designed in the usual colors for Rembrandt – golden, brown, red.

The king himself occupies most of the canvas, beside him are his wife, concubines, priests and guards. Their faces are distorted in consternation. Horror and drowsiness – these are the main leitmotifs of the canvas. The heroes seemed frozen, paralyzed from what they saw. Even for the modern viewer, a weightless hand drawing a sentence to all those gathered and the state seems very frightening.

It is known that the work on the painting took the great Dutchman two years, during which he repeatedly resorted to consultations with rabbis from the Jewish community.