Rembrandt’s Earring

Because some people think his earlobe looks “deformed” in self-portraits, some people believe that Rembrandt (as in the artist), suffered from a “botched ear piercing“, but I think that story is probably bunk and I don’t see evidence of it in his self portraits. In fact, the only self portrait that I know of that clearly and without ambiguity shows a pierced lobe is his self-portrait done in 1650, not long after his wife and two children died, and a few years before his bankruptcy and then death and burial in an unmarked grave. During that period he also painted other men (such as his portrait of Aristotle) with earrings… maybe his depression put him on a piercing kick, ha?

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

12 thoughts on “Rembrandt’s Earring

  1. I have another painting that’s earlier that looks like it MIGHT be an earring, but the copy I have isn’t big enough for me to be sure. I’ve found a number of him and other guys from the 1650s with earrings…

  2. Most excellent. Remarkable how in a culture not known for it’s overt tolerance of outside ideas things like earrings could be not only in fashion for men but also acceptable.

  3. I’m having some trouble seeing the other pages. I’ve been out of town and when I click to see page 2, it goes back to this one. Anyone else having that issue? (not just with page 2, but the rest as well.)

  4. I’ve never seen anything weird on his ear. And it could all be just a style of painting and not the real thing. After all, it’s not a photo.

    Alex – I was having a similar problem before but now I’m not anymore

  5. I know that he liked to do self-portraits with himself in “fancy dress”, so it’s possible that the ear-ring is just an embellishment, not an actual piercing. But I do think it’s equally possible that it is real.

  6. Even if it’s drawn on and is just “fancy dress”, the fact that I can find a cluster of pierced men around 1650, but not as easily ten years before or ten years after is a very interesting cultural comment to me, because it helps date another “fad”.

  7. Pierced ears were fashionable for much of what we think of as the “renaissance” today. As mentioned above, there was a spurt of earrings in the 1650s (where?), as well as the end of the 16th century in England (many of Shakespeare’s paintings show him with an earing).

  8. Yeah, it is interesting. A lot of his paintings of black men had ear-rings too, I wonder if it was a cultural assimilation thing.

  9. Well,you really got me curious about this after reading – so I did a little detective work! (I LOVE Renaissance era art) I revisited several sights,and although the sites I visited were really quite informative,the strange thing is that they did not feature the picture that you have above. That could be though that Rembrandt actually painted himself in approximately forty to fifty extant paintings, about thirty-two etchings, and seven drawings! The site I enjoyed the most was

    There I found evidence of an ear piercing in four differant self-portraits. Two of those are obvious,and the other two require good eyes! Below are those four individual links so you can see for yourself.

    (Hope it’s cool to post the links here!)

    Enjoy, Paul L. : )

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