Rembrandt Paints Jeremiah Mourns the Destruction of Jerusalem

After his initial training in his native town of Leiden, Rembrandt spent a short but crucially important period in the studio of the history painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam.

He then returned to Leiden and set up as an independent painter in 1625. He worked in the town for about six years until settling permanently in Amsterdam. Rembrandt's early work shows the powerful influence of Lastman's broad, colourful style, as can be seen, for example, in the Tobit and Anna of 1626.

This well-preserved painting is one of the finest works of Rembrandt's Leiden period. For many years it was incorrectly identified but it certainly shows Jeremiah; who had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, capital of Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah, chapters 32, 33), lamenting over the destruction of the city. In the distance on the left a man at the top of the steps holds clenched fists to his eyes: this is the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar. The prominent domed building in the background is probably Solomon's Temple.

Seated at the base of a large column, the prophetThe Prophets'Prophet' comes originally from a Greek word. It means 'a person who speaks in the name of God'. Various prophets appear in the Bible, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Prophets often foretell the future. For example, Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, while Isaiah predicts the coming of a saviour, the Messiah (anointed one). Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. It was an event he had prophesiedJeremiah's prophesyJeremiah warned King Zedekiah repeatedly that he should submit to the King of Babylon, otherwise Jerusalem would be destroyed. His predictions are incorporated in various places in the Bible, including in Jeremiah 34:1-2: 'Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Go and speak to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city unto the hand of the king of Babylon and he shall burn it with fire.' but was powerless to prevent. Rembrandt painted this panel in 1630. The light falls almost exclusively on the old man and his immediate surroundings. His bushy beard, wrinkled forehead and fur-lined cloak are depicted with great precision. Away from the light, on the left in the background, the fallFall of JerusalemThe fall of Jerusalem is described in different places in the Bible, including Jeremiah 39:1-7: 'In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it. And in the 11th year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up. And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in [...]. Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah [...] before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.' of Jerusalem is shown. The Babylonian troops of King Nebuchadnezzar II are marching into the city and putting it to the torch. These events occurred in the year 586 BC. Zedekiah, King of Judah, is standing outside the city, his head in his hands. Nebuchadnezzar ordered his eyes to be gouged out.