Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in 1606 in Leiden, in what is now the Netherlands — comfortably middle class as the son of a miller — and he learned quickly from a series of art teachers. By his early 20s, he was so gifted that he was accepting students himself.
And so, in a 1630 self-portrait of etching and burin, we see Rembrandt with eyes as wide open as his future.
By 1659, Rembrandt — at age 53 — had suffered. He had endured the death of three of his four children by his first wife, as well as that of their mother, Saskia van Uylenburgh. He was also only three years removed from falling upon financial insolvency.
And so in 1659’s “Self-Portrait With Beret and Turned Up Collar,” we see his surviving sense of jaunty panache — “Old age is a hindrance to creativity but cannot crush my youthful spirit,” the Dutch master said — yet in his face’s lines, we find a through-line: He wants us to see and feel natural human truth in his faded youth.
To see this oil-on-canvas “Self Portrait” in real life, one must visit Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. But today, to experience this very portrait of Rembrandt’s real life, you can also go to Google’s home page, as the tech titan celebrates the 407th anniversary of the artistic titan’s birth with a dusky and beguiling Doodle.