The Storm on The Sea of Galilee: The Stolen Magnum Opus

The Strom on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt Van Rjin.

A painting is an embodiment of various emotions, it has the audacity to contain expressive realms in a very evocative manner. 

Expressive and elegant paintings often end up creating timestamps for artists and their legacy. One such artwork happens to be a magnum opus painting by famous painter Rembrandt from the Dutch Golden age. 

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee painting is a 17th century Baroque artwork by Dutch maestro Rembrandt Van Rijn. It’s one of the very few paintings that portrays an intersection of a biblical and a naturalist theme. 

Being a prominent artist of the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt had a renowned brand image for himself. Most of Rembrandt paintings showcased the Dutch Golden Age very aggressively. 

You might wonder about the influential nature of these paintings that impacted pre-modern Dutch society. Well, most of them revolved around the nuances of generic themes. 

Famous Dutch painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer often romanticized the layman present in their surroundings. Paintings like The Milkmaid exemplify this fact very aptly. 

After getting a brief introduction of the medieval Dutch artform, let’s dive deeper and understand The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt in detail. 

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Biblical Reference 

Gospel of Matthew from the Holy Bible.
Image Source: Wikimedia

The central scene of this painting by Rembrandt is an excerpt from the Holy Bible. It’s a scene from Gospel of Peter.

In this gospel, Jesus asks one of his disciples, Peter, for his boat in order to address the people about the importance of spirituality in their lives. 

Jesus talked about the significance of overcoming fear in life. Eventually, Rembrandt has created a sequence in the progression of this excerpt. 

This scene in the painting depicts Peter’s boat battling a massive storm in the Sea of Galilee. The boat can be seen accommodating Jesus and some of his disciples. 

Dutch Golden Age P.O.V.

Imagine an era with paintings having both historical and artistic significance, yes, it’s none other than the Dutch Golden Age. 

Similarly, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee embeds various nuances in accordance with the Dutch diaspora. 

Usually, Golden Age paintings from any civilization portray a romanticized version of objects. However, this art piece is unique in its own style. 

Due to its non-traditional depiction, it further challenged the historic aspects of the Baroque paintings. 


Religious Significance 

The sea painted by Rembrandt here is known as the Sea of Galilee. Located in Israel, this sea traces its origins to the pre-Gothic period, when Christianity was flourishing in the Middle East. 

This place happens to be very eloquent for Christians because of its historical instances of hosting Jesus Christ in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

It has also been a prominent witness to the miraculous incident mentioned in The Bible, where Jesus Christ walked on water. 

After which, this place became a conspicuous place for the disciples of Jesus Christ. 

Aesthetic and Artistic Importance 

Being the only seascape ever painted by Dutch painter Rembrandt, The storm on the sea of galilee held a very important place amongst the pre-modern art diaspora. 

On a larger note, sea/ocean was considered as an aesthetic subject in baroque paintings. But, Rembrandt used it as an element of ferocity in his artwork. 

The roaring waves painted by Rembrandt depict the deep and frightening nature of the sea. It appears to be very dark and immersive at a glance. 

It gained prominent critical attention due to this non-traditional portrayal. 

Theories Revolving around The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Most famous artworks often get trapped in a bubble of controversies and theories. A few of them pop out and make their way through these conspiracies. 

But some of them who are not able to make it through, receive different labels from various people. 

Museum Theft 

One such instance took place in the year 1990, when this Famous Dutch painting was stolen from the famous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

It came as a shock to people, that such a renowned museum failed to stop the robbery of a classical masterpiece along with 12 other famous paintings. 

The robbery was executed by two men pretending to be police officers, who entered the museum posing to do a random security check. 

This incident imposed a lifelong question mark on the museum’s security arrangements and management. 

The biggest question here to ask is “Where is the painting now?”  or “Did the police recover it yet?” 

Unfortunately, this Dutch Golden Age accolade still remains missing and untraced. 

If you are interested in knowing more about it, you can watch the Netflix documentary called “This is a Robbery.”

Themes and Symbols

Expressive and evocative paintings have a quality of embedding and hiding themes/symbols in a very subtle way. 

Plus, when a maestro like Rembrandt does it, there is hardly any void left behind in paintings by Rembrandt. He has filled this artwork with the symbolism of human emotion in a very tangible way. 

A lot of complementary elements can be seen in this painting. The depiction of human emotions is done in a very polar way:


Struggling people in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

The fishermen trying to repair the mainsail of the boat exemplify the struggle and courage they exhibit in order to stabilize the boat. 

They have put their lives in danger to save every other disciple present in the boat. 


Chaos in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

Feared by death and struck by seasickness, a man is vomiting through the railing of the boat. 

This state of mind is very common in a situation like this. But, it compliments the mindset of the brave fishermen trying to repair the mainsail. 


Faith in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

A few disciples of Jesus Christ are sitting around him vaguely. Any kind of activity is not exhibited by them. 

Hence, a fair conclusion about their unhindered faith in Jesus Christ can be deduced from here. 

Suggested Read: Sunflowers by Van Gogh

Spiritual Awakening 

As a whole, this artwork represents the spiritual awakening Christ was willing to transfer in his disciples through his teachings. 

As a matter of fact, mention of Christ’s teachings on a boat can be witnessed in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Including many instances of courage, fear, and chaos, Rembrandt inculcated many themes from this Gospel in a very subtle way. 

The element of Christ in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee makes it one of the most spiritual paintings by Rembrandt. 

Fun Fact

  • Rembrandt painted his self portrait in this painting. The person gazing at the audience directly is Rembrandt himself.
  • Rembrandt’s self portrait seems in contrast with other human subjects. Most of them are seen reacting to the situation in some or the other way.
  • On the other hand Rembrandt is so calm and composed looking towards the audience. Apart from him, only Jesus is seen sitting calmly.
  • Does this act of his implies his prowess over Jesus Christ?

Suggested Read: Water Lilies by Claude Monet

Composition and Analysis

Geometric Perspective

Composition an analysis in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

From a layman’s perspective, most of the painters seem unaware of structuring their artwork in a systematic manner. 

However, famous painters like Rembrandt, outshone these perspectives with their expertise in structuring their paintings with immaculate use of geometry. 

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For instance, the boat is painted with a slight elevation against the roaring waves of the sea. Rembrandt has used this technique to give a 3-dimensional look to his paintings. 

He used 3 elements to represent 3 geometrical planes:

  • The boat’s horizontal axis represents the X axis.   
  • The boat’s vertical axis or upward elevation represents the Y axis. 
  • The waves beneath the boat represent the Z axis. 

Positioning of The Boat 

Positioning of the boat in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

Rembrandt has truly showcased his mastery while deciding the positions of the subsequent objects in this artwork. 

In this painting by Rembrandt, the position of the boat seems to be highly eccentric in nature. But, it also compliments the depth of the artwork. 

The boat is placed in center and is equidistant from the top right and bottom left corners of the frame. This effect shows Rembrandt’s thought behind utilizing the space efficiently. 

Distance between Human Subjects 

Distance between the human subjects in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

There are 14 human subjects in this painting. Rembrandt planned their position with an idea of median spacing in mind. 

Almost every human is painted at a similar distance from each other apart from those who are sitting on the extremes of the boat. 

The practice of keeping a fair amount of distance between living subjects in the painting leads to a much more captivating view of the painting. 

Lighting and Color

“Colors are not just visual treats, each color has a sound and an emotion” (Wassily Kandinsky). 

This quote by Russian maestro Kandinsky, revolutionized the abstract art community all over the world. However, using colors to depict emotions was a common practice among famous artists. 

It became popular through paintings by Kandinsky in the late 19th century. Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is a prime example of how color scheme can decide the overall theme of a painting. 

Suggested Read: Composition 8 by Wassily Kandinsky

The Color of the Sea

The color of the sea in The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the major subjects in this painting happens to be the Sea of Galilee. It appears to be very wild and ferocious at a glance. 

The wavelets of the sea are painted using tints of milky white. They represent the force and pressure of the wavelets. They are hitting the boat with such force that they end up being foamy.

Apart from depicting the force of the sea, Rembrandt has used pitch black color in order to  showcase the depth of the sea. 

Depth is an element that gives rise to fear. The fear of being drowned and never being able to float back on the surface. The fear of not being able to survive the depths of the sea. 

Dark Theme of the Painting 

Dark theme of The Storm on the  sea of galilee.
Image Source: Wikipedia

The use of colors to depict the overall setting of the place has been used by many painters. This painting by Rembrandt exemplifies it in every sense. 

The sky is painted using an overpowering blend of dark and murky colors. Rembrandt has painted clouds in dark gray and their tips with a blend of white and light gray. 

A couple of clouds are treated with a tint of orange to depict the reflection of sunlight falling on the lateral faces of the clouds. 

On the left side of the boat, the void without clouds can be seen in the sky. It seems like an opening where the clouds move aside to give a clear view of the blue sky towering the Storm on The Sea of Galilee. 

Another interesting insight can be seen towards the extreme right of the painting. It’s mostly painted in dark shades of every color. 

The dark theme of the right side justifies the elevation of the boat due to which it has blocked sunlight from reaching the other end. 

How People Reacted to The Storm on The Sea of Galilee

Every artwork that is made public, is open for the reception of the audience. People from different communities and diasporas react to artwork differently. 

It gives the artist a mixed response. Sometimes, critical reviews play a significant role in the painter’s artistic grooming. 

Similarly, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee received a mixture of reactions from audiences as well as art critics. 

Positive Response

This painting received positive feedback from the critics and the audience for two reasons:

  • Inclusion of biblical themes and depiction of Jesus Christ in a spiritual light 
  • The immaculate style of painting and perfect embodiment of artistic themes 

Apart from these perspectives, this painting by Rembrandt became popular among other contemporary artists because of its evocative nature. 

It was applauded by many renowned artists of that time for elevating the standards of Baroque paintings, which were already pretty high. 

Negative Response 

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee faced a few negative comments because of its unconventional depiction of Jesus Christ.  

Despite being a visual depiction of a biblical scene, some people found it a bit disrespectful that Jesus Christ was sitting in the corner of the boat. 

However, most of the claims made about the derogatory nature of the painting were negated by art enthusiasts in the later stages of the Dutch Golden Age. 

Did You Know?

If The Storm on the Sea of Galilee hadn’t  been stolen, it would be the most expensive painting of all time. The storm on the sea of galilee worth would’ve been more than $500 million.


In a world where religion is sidelined and is only used to preach personal motives, this painting by Rembrandt stands out and conveys a very special message to the new generation of painters. 

It tells a story about keeping faith in the Almighty. It depicts the suddenness of the moment. It surely portrays the reflex actions of different human beings from the same diaspora. 

This artwork came out as one of the greatest biblical paintings of all time. as it embraces the light of faith and portrays the fear of death simultaneously. 

Paintings with such compliments are very rare. This one is a testament to art being a timeless tool of nature. 

Famous paintings like The Storm on the Sea of Galilee are produced once in a few centuries. And Maestros like Rembrandt engrave their artistic legacy through these paintings for a lifetime. 

These monumental artworks are to be admired for a significant amount of time. However, after the heist, the original copy is still not found. 

Well, we have a solution for that! At PortraitFlip, we produce highly accurate replicas of renowned paintings. They are: 

  • Exact Replicas
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An exemplary painting showcasing the complementary nature of life, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is an intense portrayal of life and death in a single frame. 

Dating back to 1633, it has already left behind a legacy of nearly 400 years!

Paintings like this, embrace the inner consciousness of the human mind in accordance with its spiritual aspects.

This Dutch Golden Age artwork is the epitome of baroque art and needs to be cherished for a lifetime.

Author’s Note 

Hello readers, 

Thank you so much for reading my blog about “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” 

I hope my blog came out interesting and informative for you guys! If you feel like adding some more value to it, please drop your thoughts in the comment section!

At PortraitFlip, we keep producing amazing content about ancient art and culture. 

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1. What does The Storm on the Sea of Galilee represent?

It represents the love, courage, and light that a human exhibits. But it gets suppressed due to emotions like fear and chaos. Life is all about overcoming these emotions and shining through every situation with your inner light. 

2. Who Stole The Storm on the Sea of Galilee?

Two men posing as police officers entered the Gardner Museum in the name of an inspection and stole the famous artwork along with 12 other paintings. This heist still remains unsolved.

3. Where is the Sea of Galilee located?

The Sea of Galilee is located in northern Israel, near the Israel-Jordan border. 

4. When did the Gardner heist take place?

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist happened in 1990.

2 thoughts on “The Storm on The Sea of Galilee: The Stolen Magnum Opus

  1. Bobby says:

    I am interested to hear about the theory of the barely visible person, below deck. This person or being is never mentioned in any of the articles regarding this piece, that I have seen.

    • Suvrat Mishra says:

      Hi Bobby, I appreciate you for raising such an insightful query. The person you’re talking about symbolizes the sub-conscious of the human mind. No wonder he’s painted with a dark hue. It’s a deliberate move by Rembrandt to portray the translucent presence of sub-conscious in critical situations like these.

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