Funny, he does look Jewish:
Like so many other aspects of his life and work, Rembrandt’s connection to the Jews has been sentimentalized, overestimated, misappropriated, criticized, dissected—and debunked. In recent years, the image of the artist as a philo-Semite who painted and socialized with his Jewish neighbors has become a topic of intense scholarly debate. Yet the notion that there’s something crypto-Jewish about Rembrandt continues to enthrall.
But maybe the Jews in the Rembrandt’s art are hidden in plain sight, clearly visible in depictions of his favorite Jewish protagonist of all. That’s the thesis of “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus,” a provocative exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the catalog, curator Lloyd DeWitt suggests that the model for a series of seven heads of Christ—studies DeWitt believes Rembrandt used for several major religious paintings—was a Jew. While DeWitt is not the first to identify a Jewish Jesus in Rembrandt’s work or in this particular series of paintings, the show is the first to unite all seven since 1656 and the most ambitious effort to view them in the larger context of the artist’s religious work. In addition to being the largest-ever gathering of paintings of Rembrandt’s Jesus, the show is also the largest gathering of Rembrandt’s Jews.
That is, if you agree with DeWitt’s thesis about the ethnicity of the figure in these studies, a theory for which he has no documentary proof…At that particular place and time in the artist’s career, DeWitt reasons, Rembrandt is likely to have searched out a sitter with same physiognomy as his savior—namely, a Jew—in his quest to make the most naturalistic, humble Jesus to date in the history of art…
Read more in Tablet:
Head of Christ, attributed to Rembrandt and his studio, ca. 1648-56. Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.