Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

Archbishop's favourite portrait - Country Life magazine

Wednesday 31st March 2010

The Archbishop has chosen Rembrandt's 'Self portrait in old age' as his favourite painting, in a feature for Country Life magazine. The full article, with accompanying words from art critic John McEwen, appears in the Easter 2010 issue.

The Archbishop said of the painting:

Rembrandt in his maturity always shows us faces that look lived in: not smooth, not finished, simply expressive of time that's passed.  Painting faces like this is an act of mercy.  You can sense that this is perhaps how God sees human faces, neither completely good or bad, but simply marked by time, often by failure or pain, needing to be contemplated with acceptance.  To paint your own face like that shows a depth of self-awareness and – an odd and even paradoxical virtue – a sort of compassion towards yourself that is the very opposite of self-pity.

Back · Back to top