Part 2
Historians and theologians alike have added their commentary on the preoccupation Rembrandt held for the theme of forgiveness and goodness in his work. They might consider the depth of emotion he is able to capture as the father accepts the returning son into his forgiving arms.
Rembrandt, who at first did not approve of using himself as a model when painting, chose to portray himself as the prodigal heir - even including his wife, Saskia, in the painting of the prodigal squandering his inheritance. Later, as if drawn to the subject beyond his own sense of reserve, he would include himself more and more into these paintings concerning the life and times of Jesus.
It is important here to note that scarcely any other painter before Rembrandt had done this. In The Raising of the Cross Rembrandt is one of the soldiers. In The Descent from the Cross he is the mourning figure in blue, penitent and shaken with suffering, who helps remove Christ's body.
Identifying with the suffering and the guilt of the passion story was so important to Rembrandt, that in an etching reproducing The Descent from the Cross, one is captivated by the artist's face. Expressing pain and compassion, his own likeness is executed even more clearly than in the painting, even though obscured by deep shadows.