The art of love: Rembrandt

Full of emotional promise: 'The Jewish Bride'/'Portrait of Two Figures from the Old Testament', 1667, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Nobody knows who this couple are, in fiction or in reality. Rembrandt's painting, traditionally titled "The Jewish Bride", is now thought to depict a pair of Bible figures from the Old Testament, although there aren't enough clues to identify them. And they're presumably based on a pair of actual 17th century Dutch sitters, posed in the studio, who are equally unknown.

These mysteries hardly matter, though. Whether you take this painting as a legendary character study, or a real life portrait, its emotional subject shines through. It's a picture of troth-plighting, of weddedness.

The two slightly heavy figures make a simple, stable pyramid in the centre of the picture, their rounded forms bathed in gentle light. They have experienced faces. They do not fix one another with a passionate gaze. They think quietly of one another, and hold on to one another. The picture's feeling is invested in their laying on of hands.

His right hand is laid flat over her heart. Her left, answering, rests its fingers on it. The pressure is firm and steady, and his voluminous sleeve holds power. But at the same time their touch is light and tender.

This is an image, not of grasping desire, but of mutual support and trust and being sure of your luck an ideal image of married love.