Rembrandt’s painting depicts the moment before a parade when confusion reigns. Participants are still uncertain of their places. The two men in the front are the officers of the fraternity which is sponsoring a parade in honor of a state visit by the Queen of France to Holland. Similar to Caravaggio, Bernini, and Velazquez, the painter avoided any semblance of idealization or beautification. The individual members of the fraternity each donated their share toward the total cost of the painting, and were thereby included in the composition. In exchange for their payments, they expected realistic portrayals.

These are “the masses.” The very low value background, high value on the figures’ faces and earthy color tone were probably quite typical of visual perception in an era before electric lighting and modern textile dyes. The paintings by Caravaggio, Velazquez, and Rembrandt do not represent the lives of the gods or those on the level of the angels, but reflect the audience itself.