Rembrandt van Rijn and Edgar Degas

Two women and Two Painters

This paper will briefly analyze and compare Rembrandt van Rijns portrait of a young woman and Edgar Degas portrait of a woman seated beside a vase of flowers. Rembrandt van Rijns artwork of 1633 was made on an oil canvas, 125.7 x 101 cm in size, with an inscription of the subject and date on the lower left side. The painting appears to be in good condition apart from the loss of details on the lace collar, and the bows that decorate the sleeves. Edgar Degas artwork of 1865 was made on an oil canvas, 73.7 x 92.7 cm in size. Establishing a comparison between Rembrandt van Rijn and Edgar Degas is similar to comparing the Dutch Golden Age with the 19th century in France. However, despite the vast difference in the years, it is very easy to establish the connection between the styles used by the two artists. This paper will compare the two artists artworks in terms of the periods they were produced, their composition and treatment of space, how they embrace color and light in their artwork, and their differences.

Get a free price quote

1st time order 15% OFF
Order for: 00.00 / 00.00

Period of Existence

The portrait of a young woman demonstrates the persona that made Rembrandt one of the leading portrait painters of his time. The artwork was produced during the baroque artistic period which originated in the 16th century in Italy. The Protestant Reformation had taken its due course, and the Catholic Church was responding to challenge the reformation. As a result, artists were encouraged to portray their artworks with realism and emotions. Many of the works produced were genre paintings and scenes from everyday life. On the other hand, Edgars artworks were produced during the Impressionism period of the 1860s and 1870s. The period was characterized by beliefs of painting the realities of the world using bright and dazzling colors, and in particularly concentrating on the effects of light to express what an artist wanted at a specific time.

Composition and Treatment of Space

Regarding pose and expression, the woman appears to be calm and reassuring. Rembrandt also describes the delicate and leaf-like layers of the collar curl up and in the cuff to the right with a lot of illusion. One of the most extraordinary elements in the portrait is the detail of light and shadow which is evident in the waist and armbands and the strings of pearl and coral beads. The black ostrich feather fan in the womans right hand is a representation of high style and prosperity. A critical look at the fan area of the portrait reveals that perhaps due to the strong abrasion along this specific area, the fan does not seem to arch forward and thus casting a shadow in the womans fingers. According to the portrait, the fans intended shape is clearly clarified together with the idea that the hand holding it was originally lighted before the additional of the shadow. The sitters apparel and kinky coiffure is conventional to the most recent feminine fashions in France.

Similarly, Edgars presentation of the woman and the flower vase creates a set of visual signals that create a three-dimensional space illusion. Even though more details are directed to the flower vase, viewers are capable of gluing their eyes on the portrait due to the pomp and color in it. The attractiveness created by the mixture of colors blended by yellow makes a viewer get attached and attracted to the artwork.

Distribution of Color and Direction of Light

Rembrandt van Rijns portrait of a young woman is portrayed in a fashionable character characterized by a large lace collar with two layers, elegant earrings, and ribbons. Her oval face, beautiful wide set eyes, red well-combed hair, and arched eyebrows express her social status. The ability of the artist to portray the sitters composition against desolate background introduces an intimate feeling to the portrait. Rembrandt uses his technical skills to vary brush strokes and contrasts translucent with opaque areas. The application of paint in layers and highlighting dark and light areas instills an inner luminosity to his subjects. Rembrandts ability to use thickly applied paint adds texture to the surface of the painting which in turn introduces feelings of closeness and naturalness to the artwork. The artwork has restricted color pallets which are dominated by white, black and red shades.

Rembrandt applies sharp contrasts of light and shade to heighten drama and intensity. He also uses dark background against the well-lit figure of the sitter to provide a restrained interface of the tines that bring life to the artwork. The sitters skin tone seems to glow from within as opposed to the external hidden source of light. The composition of her persona characterized by a soft round face, red lips, silky hair and rosy cheeks introduce an innocent and vulnerable character.

Edgar Degas portrait of a woman seated beside a vase of flowers. Even though there is little detail on the woman, the artist applies pain in small touches of pure color and light to give the art work a sense of nature. The images of both the flower and the woman have a natural appearance that has been blended in by natural light and color. Edgar puts more emphasis on the perception of both the subject matter and the subject itself

Distinguishing Features from Other Photos

Rembrandts portrait pulls viewers due to the details captured by the artist. Viewers spend more time on the portraits resulting to calmer eye movements. The artist shifts his model of painting from transitioning from sharp to blurry edges which direct a viewer to some narrative. The accuracy of the painting questions the artists intent and understanding of how the human eye works. The same sentiments were shared by Schirillo who felt that Rembrandt biased his male portraits to show their right-cheek more often and female portraits to show their left-cheek more often.

A close look at the portrait of a young woman illustrated in figure 1 reveals that Rembrandt employed sensual and erotic skills in his presentation as the left side of the portrait represents negative emotions, sexuality, and expressions while the right one portrays different emotions encompassed by positive emotions. According to Tendera and Wojciech, Rembrandt had a very emotional, romantic, sexual and sensational attitude towards female portraits which brought about the realm of psychological reflection. The portrait evokes a social nature of human persons which we all tend to read similarly the artists intentions and feelings. Thus, Rembrandt enables viewers to understand how to go through the surface of the painting, and its artistic and visual layers comprehending its content and finally comprehending its true meaning and intended message.

Edgar Degas portrait of a woman seated beside a vase of flowers represents a cut-out the figure at the right edge, as part of the sitters left hand can barely be viewed. Her submissive attire seems very minor to the demonstration of color that makes up the flower. Even though the artwork is very bright and vibrant, the images lack details. We are unable to understand the moods and personality of the woman in the picture. From her dressing, a viewer is also unable to establish the nature of times that her fashion conforms to.


It is clear that the two artworks have numerous differences which are anchored on the period and time characterized by Impressionism and Baroque artistic periods, that they were produced. One element with Edgars artwork is that it focuses more on light and natural subjects that have no hidden meaning in religion or morality. His painting is just a woman seated next to a flower vase, nothing more or less. The painting has unformed edges that are meant to be noticed. On the other hand, Rembrandts artwork is a pure presentation of Baroque art which sharply contrasts with the latter. The portrait of a young woman depicts a young woman seated with a lot of hidden details in her facial expression and dressing. Similar to romanticism, the artwork presents expensive styles with spiritual and moral connections. Other differences depicted by the two artworks include:

1. Dimension

The dimensions of the Portrait of a Young Woman with a fan are 49 1/2 x 39 3/4 in. (125.7 x 101 cm) while that of a Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers is 29 x 36 1/2 in. (73.7 x 92.7 cm). the different sizes signify the two different times in history when the artworks were produced.

2. Lighting

In the Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan, lighting is focused making it realistically rendered. Lighting affects the mood of the art work illuminating a jovial playful mood. There is a luminous effect. On the other hand, A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers portrait employs bright lighting with different shades of yellow combined. Lighting is dispersed, making it specially enhanced. Lighting affects the mood of the art work illuminating a serene mood. This clearly indicates that Impressionism focused on a light while Baroque remains disciplined and focused only on the contrast between shadow and light.

3. Details

In the portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan, precise details i.e. facial features emphasizing more the portrait and the viewer is able to learn the mood of the artwork. On the contrary, Edgars Portrait of a Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers lacks precise details leaving viewers to guess the mood and storyline of the artwork.

4. Artist pallet

Rembrandt conforms to the Baroque artistic style that is restricted to the use of many colors in Young Woman with a Fan portrait while Edgars portrait of a Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers uses numerous colors to make the artwork appear natural

5. Artist brush strokes

In the portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan, work was created over a long period of time. The nature of the brushstrokes creates a feeling of precision, elegance, and grace. On the other hand, the portrait of a Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers was created quickly, and the nature of the brushstrokes creates a feeling of amusement and excitement.

10% word count difference
(300 words instead of
270 words per page)
15% off for a first-time order
25% off


It is amazing how the two artistic styles have changed drastically in a short duration of time. The two artists have shown a lot of similarities regarding the subject matter as both have utilized human and nature. Even though underlined differences exist between the two artistic pieces, a high value is placed on both as they indicate the changing social conditions and attitudes defined by the time that they were created. The two periods, Impressionism and Baroque symbolize the transformative and refusal nature of the western world to tradition and religion in support of individualism and secularism.


Related essays