How did Rembrandt’s use of chiaroscuro and dark backgrounds influence the appearance of the characters in his paintings? Please give 3 examples to explain your answer. I'm doing an art project on Rembrandt and your answers will really help me a lot.

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The most telling use of chiaroscuro (technically, the use of tonal values without regard to color) is to emphasize the light sources.  Rembrandt was very conscious of the light source in all of his paintings, not only as a part of the scene but also as a symbol, of the character’s purpose in the painting.  The most understandable example is in Philosopher in Meditation (1632), with its two light sources, the window at the philosopher’s side and the fire being tended in the lower right hand of the painting.  The shade and lighting, Greg Albert says, “reinforce the significance of the philosopher” as a bringer of light (“the all-knowing light of nature”) contrasting with the firelight, which represents “the relatively limited understanding of man.” (Albert, Greg, “Master Class,” Artist’s Magazine, 1998, p. 96.)  In another painting, at the Hermitage Museum, the figures are the Prodigal Son and his father, and the chiaroscuro and the light from the father’s face reinforce the life-giving moment captured in this massive painting (eight feet tall).  Finally, as in virtually all Rembrandt’s religious paintings, The Ascension depicts the light source as the Holy Spirit, as Christ rises toward the light of the Holy Spirit, represented by a dove.  The humans below are also touched by the light partly reflected off Christ .  Compare El Greco’s Nativity, in which the only light source, illuminating everyone, is the manger where the Christ Child lies.   

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