Monthly Archives: June 2012

What makes Rembrandt Rembrandt?

Whenever I pass Rembrandt toothpaste in the aisle, I can’t help but try to imagine that branding meeting. What makes the name so puzzling? Maybe it is all that time i have spent trying to make compositional sense of the master’s etchings. Or maybe the general impression i have of the brown backgrounds and dour expressions in his portraits. But, I have always thought that the name is ill-suited to a product purporting a sparking white smile.

So, imagine that branding meeting. Five guys, who took art appreciation in college because it was a graduation requirement, sitting in a brightly lit room pitching names. What about an artist, one says. You know like using this toothpaste is like making your face into a masterpiece, he elaborates. Great, the other says encouragingly. Well, there is Picasso, right, one guy calls out. But his people don’t look like people, one counters. And, Da Vinci, another guy suggests. That Mona Lisa has weird eyes. Hey what about Rembrandt? oh Rembrandt, they all say. they all ponder this suggestion trying to conger up the look of Rembrandt in their minds. And, then decide, almost in unison, that there must be something there that made Rembrandt famous. And, if it was good enough for Rembrandt, it is good enough for them.

With a nationally traveling exhibition considering What makes a Rembrandt [painting] a Rembrandt, I wonder what makes the idea of a Rembrandt, a Rembrandt. Along with toothpaste, there has been silverware, bands, and x branded using Rembrandt’s name. What about Rembrandt makes his name garner such recognition?