Google doodle hails the world's first Facebooker: Rembrandt

Rembrandt, the man who painted himself at least 90 times, would have been 407 today. So Google offers him due respect.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
Just one of many. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Google's doodlers don't just celebrate birthdays of a rounded significance -- such as 50 or 100.

If they feel like celebrating someone's 407th birthday, that's what they're going to do.

Monday, therefore, the hosannas were doodled for a 407-year-old man who wasn't merely a deeply talented artist, but also an early pioneer of the Facebook model.

Rembrandt van Rijn was, to many, one of the world's great painters. But what became fascinating to many scholars, as they began to study more of his work, was how many times he painted himself.

There are at least 90 known Rembrandt self-portraits, one of which, "Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar," is featured in front of Monday's Google logo.

Naturally, scholars don't agree why Rembrandt painted himself so many times.

Some speculate that it offered him more instant personal fame. Others muse that he wanted to use his art to show the gradual progression of the human condition.

Perhaps it was both of these. Perhaps this was his way of creating his own Facebook, a chronicle of his own emotions and ultimate degeneration, an expression of a continuum that he hoped might one day be viewed as a complete story.

Yes, not unlike all the self-referential and self-reverential postings that make up most of social networking.

Unlike most of social networking, however, Rembrandt managed to capture so much nuance with mere brush strokes that leave viewers staring for the longest time.

Each is, in its way, a status update. It just so happens that his are now housed in some of the world's greatest galleries.

I wonder how many of today's status updates will ever be examined again.