15 MAY 1964, Page 7

Looking at Rembrandt Looking at Rembrandt

Two things surprise me about the National Gallery's new Rembrandt, Belshazzar's Feast. The first is the frame which the Gallery gave it temporarily and are now thinking of keeping; its bulk gives an unfortunate impression that it is concealing a small part of the picture at either end. One wouldn't suggest for a moment that this is true, but it does seem to me distinctly probable that something was cut off the ends at some stage. The eye moves over the work in a graceful curve from left to right, but the abruptness of the beginning at the left is too sudden for me to believe that everything is quite there. The other thing is the almost crude brightness of the woman's neck in that same left-hand corner. It would be rash to put this down to the cleaning, yet how oddly it con- trasts with the beautifully worked, dimly-seen girl playing the flute in the background. There, I think, you can see an altogether different Rembrandt emerging.