Rembrandt was an artist who frequently used the elderly as models for his portraits. His use of lighting enabled him to bring out all the features of an aging face, almost making it beautiful within his own ouevre. Perhaps Van Gogh can be considered as the next best artist to have done this.
Indeed the title of this work, as a study of lighting, indicates precisely the intention of the artist when he requested his elderly model to sit for him. The style and approach is not experimental in any way, it is entirely in line with his other works from this year.
The angle of the head, facial expressions, darkened background and simple clothing all continues throughout other paintings such as another another lighting study of a young woman in a silk gown. The considerable research completed on his career has enabled us to accurately place his work chronolically, and from this we can compare his developments as an artist from one painting to another.
It may seem strange for an artist of Rembrandt's quality to require study paintings at this stage of his career - surely the majority of his skills were set in stone by this point? Like all the great masters, he was never satisfied to consider his development complete, there were always elements to any artwork that could be improved through practice.