Belshazzar's Feast was an attempt to establish Rembrandt as a painter of large, baroque history paintings. The figures in Belshazzar's Feast are not attractive but they are shown realistically: Rembrandt has tried to capture the moment at which the banqueters stare, in amazement and terror, at the mysterious hand. The people have wrinkles and other blemishes which show that Rembrandt did not paint perfection. He liked the audience to see the eyes of the figures to reinforce the mood of the painting. This is apparent if the audience looks closely in Belshazzar's Feast at the central figure of the King of Babylon and the queen sitting next to him. They have a look of surprise and the detail around the eyes reinforces this notion.
The mood of the painting is alarm and surprise. This is shown through Rembrandt's distinctive manipulation of light and shadow by means of altering the texture, potency, direction of stroke subtly achieve the desired mood. This is called Chiaroscuro. Light and shadows play a significant role in developing the mood of Belshazzar's Feast especially around the hand that writes on the wall and the reflection of King Belshazzar's royal cloak. The shadows are used to hide the unnecessary or distracting details and light is used to illuminate the faces of the figures.
The materials used for Belshazzar's Feast were oil on canvas and this allowed Rembrandt to manipulate the paint to create defined shadows, light, atmosphere, motion and mood. Signs and symbols are used to subtly convey the morals and biblical message across to the audience. The hand that is writing the message on the wall is male. This clearly represents the Almighty God. The vessel that has been tipped over is a Holy Communion cup which represents the blasphemy that took place at the feast. The gold which is reflecting off the royal cloak that the king is wearing epitomizes the wealth of the Kingdom of Babylon.
The composition of this artwork shows evidence of planned orga...