Rembrandt’s Portraits and the Contemporary Spiritual Care Encounter


  • Elizabeth Topper Independent researcher



self-reflection, Rembrandt’s light, Spiritual Care, attunement, suffering, witnessing, portraiture


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), the Dutch painter, printmaker and portraitist, is frequently listed as being among the greatest of all visual artists. His portraits, in addition to their undeniable technical virtuosity, seem to be illuminated by an extraordinary light that evokes a spiritual dimension. This article explores what can be extrapolated from Rembrandt’s empathetic portraiture with a view to positively impacting the spiritual care encounter. It describes Rembrandt’s ongoing process of introspection and his concomitant ability to bear witness to his sitters, as evidenced by his compassionate portrayals of their vulnerable humanity. A contemporary insight into the empathetic reading of faces, as reflected in portraiture, is demonstrated through a comparative analysis of several portraits from the 2020 “Portraits for NHS Heroes” project during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Topper, Independent researcher

Elizabeth Topper M.A. is a certified spiritual care provider.


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How to Cite

Topper, E. (2022). Rembrandt’s Portraits and the Contemporary Spiritual Care Encounter. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 10(2), 210–228.