Rembrandt was one of the defining figures of the seventeenth-century Dutch Golden Age. Born in Leiden, where he began his artistic career, he moved to Amsterdam in his mid-twenties and rapidly became successful. He made his reputation with large-scale portraits of wealthy citizens and with representations of scenes from the Bible, along with landscapes, genre scenes, and smaller-scale portraits. He was a skilled draftsman and a highly innovative etcher who observed his subjects directly and often presented them with both uncompromising realism and considerable dramatic intensity.
Edgar Degas was born in Paris and briefly received a conventional art education based on traditional techniques and subject matter. His early work often centered on standard, historical subjects, based on his study of past masters. In his late twenties he began to paint contemporary city life, and he became one of the founding members of the Impressionist group. His work was often radically experimental in form, but perhaps thanks to his early training, he maintained an interest in traditional subjects like portraiture for many years. He also excelled in a range of forms, including etching, sculpture, and later, photography, as well as painting.