As Jerry Saltz has well pointed out, the selfie did not originate with the advent of the iPhone. Look, for example, at Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, who painted over 100 self-portraits in his lifetime — more images than almost anyone else pre-photography — and together, the portraits are more than just an act of vanity when you consider Rembrandt was discovered young, got rich and famous, then blew all his money and went bankrupt. A Cribs episode at his peak would have been compelling: This here is my suit of ancient Japanese armor, my amazing collection of busts of Roman emperors, and in this room here, I keep my printing press. His rise as a talented artist and eventual financial downfall comprise the kind of story we love today, and the paintings he made capture this trajectory. Rembrandt’s captions are in his expression and dress: He makes faces at himself and depicts his wild tangle of hair with gleeful strokes; he poses in period costumes and paints his success in his stature; he shows every line in his face as a troubled old man.
If Rembrandt’s career were happening now, we’d all be his followers. He embraced silliness and sorrow, all with a balance of honesty and self-branding that proves that there’s an art to showing yourself. Sharing like Rembrandt (@remmyv? @rijnrhymeswithwin? Or, more likely, @rembrandt) is something from which the art world doesn’t shy away. To give this Dutch master his internet due, we’ve assembled a selection of Rembrandt #OOTDs — outfits of the day — to appreciate how his style and stance showcase who he was in happiness and in gloom. If you’re still figuring out your looks for the circuit of holiday parties, take a cue from a painter with a flair for self-preservation with our slideshow below. We offer four of our favorite portraits and corresponding looks from Gucci to Saint Laurent.