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Rembrandt van Rijn, The Laughing Man, c. 1629 - 1630

Eyes shining and eyebrows raised, a man is baring his crooked teeth in a hearty laugh. This is not a portrait, but a character study or ‘tronie’ of a laughing man. Rembrandt painted it while he was living in Leiden and still had a very smooth style. So it is remarkable that he painted this head with incredibly loose brushstrokes – the style for which he later became famous. In some places, Rembrandt scratched in the wet paint to reveal the base – a copper plate covered in gold leaf.

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