Born in 1606, Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the most prominent painters in Europe and the greatest painter in Holland. His paintings cover a wide range of various styles and he made excellence in portraits, landscape paintings, genre paintings, religious paintings and history paintings. His works employed chiaroscuro and techniques in lights and coloring, which made paintings rich in levels and changes. As a result, there is a lot of drama in his paintings.
Take The Holy Family as an example. It is also known as the Household of the Carpenter. Because of changes in life and society, Rembrandt began to choose subjects that embodied profound humanity. He infused themes, like paternal love, sympathy and forgiveness, into religious paintings. Poor people of lower social grades also became figures in his paintings. In The Holy Family, Virgin Mary was portrayed as a peasant woman. It is a peasant family, which simple and warm. Mary holds Jesus upon her knee, breastfeeding her little baby. Beside them stands Saint Anna. Saint Joseph is a little far away from the central figures, chopping woods into small pieces. Throughout this painting, figures take up a small space. He put this family into a carpenter's house, which is a workroom and a kitchen. The whole room is fully revealed because this setting helps people to understand the story better.
In the front of the painting, there is a cradle, covered by a soft swaddling cloth. We can also see a fireplace, with pots hanging above it. Timber is piled up on the ground near the stove. A string of garlic is hung on a nail. In the darkness, we can get a glimpse of the eave, the fireplace and other utensils. In this workroom of a carpenter, we can feel freedom and ease. Every little thing has a timeless quality.
Besides, light plays a significant role in The Holy Family. Sunlight hits the house through a small window, so this bunch of sunshine only falls on a small space of the house. The sunlight is mainly focused on the central figure -- Jesus. There is also several ray of sunlight shining on Mary, Anna and Joseph, but other things are swallowed in darkness. Through the unique use of chiaroscuro, the darkness sets off the lightness better because it weakens unnecessary elements. Rembrandt also uses lights to emphasize the central part of the painting. The technique his uses make his painting full of dramas and plots. This is an important feature in Rembrandt's works.