click to zoom in SAINT ANNA THE PROPHETESS
by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn


The old woman reading in such a thoughtful manner is St Anna the Prophetess. According to the biblical story she was a woman of extreme old age who served God day and night in the Temple. She was present when Joseph and Mary brought their son Jesus to the Temple. St Anna immediately recognised Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Rembrandt shows Anna deeply absorbed in studying the Bible. The light comes from behind her, touching on her Oriental-looking headdress stitched with gold thread and her red velvet cloak and shining directly on the Bible and her hand pointing to the Hebrew letters. Rembrandt painted this old woman's hand with great care, with its thin wrinkled skin and clearly visible veins. Anna's face, however, is hidden in shadow.