UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Frick collection Rider by Rembrandt van Rijn Deyell, Daniel Wayne


The Frick Collection Rider by Rembrandt (commonly known as the Polish Rider) has been studied and supposedly identified by art historians. This thesis reviews writings on the painting from its description by Anton Bredius in 1897 to the present day, and proposes new material relevant to a better understanding of the function and meaning of the painting. Julius Held firmly established the art historical study of the Polish Rider in an article in 1944. His source material includes Polish and non-Polish writings, as well as pictorial comparisons. His conclusion, is that the Polish Rider is not a commissioned portrait, perhaps not even Polish, but rather a representation of some important allegorical or historical figure. W.S. Valentiner writing in 1948 agreed while Jan Bialostocki in 1969 and Colin Campbell in a number of articles in the 1970's agreed with qualifications. There are others, however, who strongly disagree. Zdzislav Zygulski in 1965 proposes that the Polish Rider be identified as a real portrait of a Lisowski-like cavalryman while B.P.J. Broos in 1975 concludes the portrait is of a seventeenth century Polish sitter. In the painting itself, there is no evocation of the glory of seventeenth century Netherlands. It hints rather of the glories and thoughts of other times and places. The rider is not real but lost in ancient stories, in exploits that he has been through. His bearing, his horse and the land around him create an atmosphere of the exotic. The viewer is left to sense the heritage and strength of the rider and his life. The attitude of a noble hero, a symbol to be held in admiration, is found in few characters with the Polish Rider's attributes. As Bialostocki had said, it would almost be better suited to the graphic medium of the emblemata. One figure in particular fits the description and the mood of the Rembrandt painting, and that is the three-fold personality of St. Reinold of Pantaleon/Renaud of Les Quatre Fils Aymon. Here is one of the few persons who was popular in seventeenth century literature, and who as a soldier and a saint gives acceptable meaning to the Frick Collection Rider.

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