Rembrandt was introduced to etching by a commission from a Haarlem publisher who also employed Jan Lievens, the artist who shared Rembrandt's first studio in Leiden. This and other early etchings show a very tentative beginning: a gradual mastery of the etchingneedle, an ability to handle it with increasing freedom, as he would handle a pen or chalk. Shortly after his move to Amsterdam, Rembrandt produced The Raising of Lazarus (ca. 1632; fig. 4.35), a large, elaborate, and highly dramatic print that served to announce his arrival as a major printmaker, just as his contemporary painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, was his calling card as the up-and-coming virtuoso portraitist of Amsterdam. The Raising ofLazarus has its draw-
Jan van de Velde II. The Pancake Woman. Ca.1626. Engraving. 185 x 128 mm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
backs, in both conception and execution; Rembrandt's sole authorship has even been questioned, although the plate is signed." All in all, however, the extravagant drama, Caravaggesque lighting, and exaggerated gestures, and the insistent presence of details such as the sword, bow, arrow, and quiver of the deceased, accord well with other works of Rembrandt's early years .16 He has not yet developed his matchless capacity for understatement. If isolated areas of this print suggest the sensitivity we associate with Rembrandt's etchings, the plate as a whole is overworked and tight. Still, there is something unforgettable in Christ's commanding gesture, a superhuman grandeur that Rembrandt contrasted to the frailty of Lazarus, almost reluctantly coming to life below. The cavernous setting with its strongly lighted opening already hints at Rembrandt's skill in the expressive use of space.
The Raising of Lazarus (fig. 4.36) by Jan Lievens, Rembrandt's early colleague, bears a problematic relationship both to Lievens' painting of the same subject in Brighton and to a drawing by Rembrandt in the British Museum, begun as a Raising of Lazarus but changed to an Entombment. However one assesses the knotty problems of precedence and influence, the close relationship between the two artists as they shared a studio in Leiden is obvious. Lievens' etching seems to conflate the moment when Christ raises Lazarus with the moment of giving thanks to God immediately before the resurrection .57 As Jesus pauses to communicate with his Father, Lazarus' hands are already beginning to reach up tenuously from the sarcophagus, as if to emphasize the preordained nature of the miracle. Unlike the Christ of Rembrandt's print, who is a powerful, almost sorcerer-like figure, Lievens' Christ is more an instrument, a conduit for the power of God. Despite the difference in conception, both artists approached etching similarly. A strong, theatrical chiaroscuro is established by fine webs of lines that build together into deep shadows. Lievens' plate was reworked with the burin for publication by Frans van den Wyngaerde in Amsterdam: its first state is fairly rare.
Rembrandt briefly ventured into reproductive printmaking in his huge (53o by 410 mm) Descentfrom the Cross (1633; fig. 4.37), after a painting he had done as part of a Passion series commissioned by Prince Frederick Henry, the Stadholder of Holland. Here, Rembrandt seems to have had in mind Barocci's etchings after his own paintings, as well as Rubens' practice of publishing with a government privilege (copyright). The print itself was commissioned by an Amsterdam dealer, Hendrik van Uylenburgh, whose address appears in the plate and whose cousin, Saskia, Rembrandt would marry. Rembrandt's inspiration for both painting and reproductive etching was Rubens' Descentfrom the Cross and Vorsterman's engraving after it, which we will encounter again in Chapter 5 (see fig. 5.18).
A comparison between the two prints is instructive. First, it shows how Rembrandt assimilated and often totally transformed the influences that came to him, largely in the form of the prints he collected on a vast scale. The basic composition, the pose of Christ, the actions of the mourners struggling to lower him from the cross, and the white cloth that defines his body visually and symbolically as sacrificial offering are related to Rubens' work, but Rembrandt's is introspective and unidealized. The keys to understanding the basic differences between these two quintessentially Baroque artists are the two figures of Christ-one classically conceived and dominating the central space by his size and arresting beauty; the other painfully small, awkward, and dominant only because he is so mercilessly exposed and made vulnerable by the light. At the same time, this light functions as an intangible symbol of his transcendence of death.
Conceptually and expressively, both prints are complex and moving, but if we were to judge them solely as reproductions of paintings, Vorsterman's clearly excels. His outstanding burin work has some chance of echoing the wealth of sense impressions, irresistible movement and swelling forms offered by Rubens' painting, but the painted prototype for Rembrandt's etching seems violated by its graphic translation. At this point Rembrandt was apparently reluctant to submerge the mourners in the blackness of some of his later etchings. The whitegold light of the painting, which picks out the crumpled body of Christ, is not quite as dominant in the print. The details of clothing and facial expressions are overstated. Even though Christopher N"ite concludes that "Rembrandt must have regretted his almost exclusive absorption in the main theme,"18 a certain technical timidity and conventionality in the print might also be postulated.
About twenty of Rembrandt's early etchings are genre scenes involving beggars and other street types. Although there are prototypes for these subjects in printmaking (Callot's series of beggars, for example), Rembrandt's images give a vivid sense of observed reality. The Pancake Woman (1635; fig. 4.38) depicts an Amsterdam street vendor who fries her wares in silence, unimpressed by the hubbub that surrounds her. The similarity to Van de Velde's black print is obvious (see fig. 4.33), but Rembrandt has removed the image even further from the realm of moralizing genre, lending the scene a delightful sense of spontaneity.19 The unabashed delight of the children as they eat or anticipate their pancakes is matched by the ferocious determination of the foreground youngster to protect his pancake from a greedy dog. Rough, scratchy
Adriaen van Ostade. The Family. 1647. Etching. 179 X _r59 mm. R S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago.
lines are chosen to express precisely the rowdy ambiance that the artist observed in Amsterdam's streets. An obscure image of a grimacing face in the right background is difficult to interpret; Franklin Robinson has suggested that it embodies the fears and fantasies of little children.60 Perhaps it makes a bemused comment on the aggressive confrontation of child and dog. Whatever its meaning, the passage illustrates Rembrandt's practice of contrasting deeply bitten with lightly etched areas .61
Rembrandt often sketched directly on the plate. One sheet (fig.4.39), dating between 1639 and 1642, combines depictions of Saskia in bed with beggars and lepers (note the clappers the figures in the upper left hold to signal their coming). The ragged lines with which the beggars are rendered-especially those with slightly grotesque features at the lower leftdiffer entirely from the extremely delicate marks that describe the artist's sick wife. Until her
Rembrandt van Rijn. The Raising of Lazarus. Ca. 1632. Etching and burin. 366 X 258 mm. British Museum, London.
death in 1642, Saskia was frequently ill from childbirth; she bore four children to Rembrandt, of whom only a son, Titus, lived to adulthood. Uniting this plate's disparate images is a tragic mood.
In sixteenth-century northern works, such as prints by Lucas van Leyden, beggars were depicted satirically as exemplars of idleness.62 Fortified by literature such as Sebastian Brant's Ship ofFools (1494) and Luther's preface to the Liber Vagatorum, a treatise vilifying mendicants published in 1509, the middle class came to view the increasing numbers of indigents with suspicion. As Suzanne Stratton has pointed out, however, more sympathetic and charitable attitudes toward beggars developed within Dutch Protestantism in the second half of the seventeenth century. She understands Rembrandt's etchings of beggars done after the 163os as harbingers of this new attitude.63 Perhaps our sketch, which combines slightly grotesque elements with the plaintive outward glance of the beggar woman at the left, represents a transitional state in Rembrandt's attitude.
The high point of Rembrandt's early etchings is his Death of the Virgin (1639; fig. 4.40). Here he achieved an exhilarating sense of light-filled space, a freedom and variety of line and tonal contrast. In White's words, the work is "pictorial without aping the finish of a picture [contrast The Descent from the Cross; fig. 4.371, and at the same time has the linear precision of a drawing without losing sight of the fact that etched and drawn lines are very different in character .1164 In 1638, at the estate auction of Gommer Sgranger, Rembrandt had purchased a number of prints by Durer, including numerous sets of the woodcut series Life of the Virgin
Jan Lievens. The Raising of Lazarus. -r63o-31. Etching. 36o
X 312 mm (sheet). Davison Art Center,
Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.
(published in 1511).65 From Durers scene of Mary's death, Rembrandt borrowed merely a figure holding a staff surmounted by a cross (at the far left of the etching). But from DurersBirth of the Virgin (fig. 2.13) he adapted the feelingof a tall, ample space into which the visionary abruptly intrudes in the form of a censer-swinging angel surrounded by clouds. Rembrandt added barely traced cherubim. Mary's soul, in the form of a tiny child, is received into heaven: an archaic symbolic motif that Rembrandt easily adapted to his fluid composition. Beneath the heavenly irruption, a wide array of people attend Mary. Despite the miraculous event above them, which only the Magdalen seems to see, they are troubled by the loss of a much-loved woman. The simple humanity of their facial expressions and gestures is no less moving than the small form of Mary, propped up against a pillow by an aging apostle, her pulse now taken by a physician: a new, naturalistic note .66 Undoubtedly, Rembrandt had seen Saskia propped up like this many times during the course of her illness. The image of Mary bears much in common with Rembrandt's sketches of his sick wife. Few artists absorbed their lives into their art as thoroughly as Rembrandt.
This point can be made most strongly with Rembrandt's numerous self-portraits, which reflect his stylistic and personal evolution more vividly than those of any other artist.67 In 1639
Rembrandt was a successful painter, primarily of portraits of wealthy patrons, in Amsterdam. Seff-'Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill (fig.4.41) reflects his self-confidence. He displays his rich clothing and seems to challenge the viewer to appraise him. This etching is a masterpiece of textural suggestion put together from two sources-Raphael's portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, a quintessential Renaissance aristocratic portrait that indirectly put Rembrandt in touch with Leonardo's Mona Lisa, and Titian's portrait of an unknown man, sometimes thought to be the poet Ariosto, also a great example of Renaissance portraiture. By assimilating these two prototypes, Rembrandt portrayed himself as both a gentleman, with the easy, unaffected grace of Castiglione, and a creative genius like Ariosto. Moreover, he put himself in the same league with two near-legendary Renaissance artists: Raphael and Titian. Both Ariosto and Castiglione had appeared on the Amsterdam art market in 1639 and had been purchased for the king of France by Alfonso Lopez, a Spanish Jew living in the city. On the hasty sketch he made after Raphael's work during the auction, Rembrandt noted that it sold for 3,500 guilders, considerably more than he had been paid for his most recent paintings. (The underbidder for the work, at 3,400 guilders, had been the painter-printmaker Joachim von Sandrart. )61 In the sketch, Rembrandt had already begun to assimilate Castiglione's features into his own. The snub nose and rakish angle of the cap appear as deviations from the painting, as does an accentuation of the contrast between head and body directions. From the Titian, he took the parapet and the
splendid sleeve, an exquisite, silken blue in the painting, and the greater brashness of the sitter.69
The year1648 found him a different, more introspective man. He had lost three children in infancy, and his mother had died in 1640. His beloved Saskia had died in 1642. The nurse he had hired for Titus and with whom he evidently became sexually involved, Geertge Dircx, would soon leave his home under unpleasant and controversial circumstances in which Rembrandt revealed himself at his worst .70 Hendrickje Stoffels, who was to become his commonlaw wife, had perhaps just entered his household, coexisting for a time with Dircx in what must have been an uncomfortable relationship. His financial situation, not yet desperate, was worsening. Now, Rembrandt depicted himself in severe black garb as he drew from a mirror image. Gone are the suggestions of the gentleman-artist; Rembrandt portrayed himself unpretentiously at work .7 1 The first state of this etching (fig. 4.42), used as a working proof, shows us his process: over the etched network of dense hatching composed of variously bitten lines, he worked with a drypoint and burin to "sculpt" and broadly define the masses of the lower body, table, and drawing pad (the face had already been modeled thoroughly with fine, etched lines; to this he added only a few touches of drypoint). In the second state (fig. 4.43), this process of biting then reworking with drypoint and burin was continued on a more refined level, so that a delicate veil of tone smooths out the boundaries between the previously established tonal areas, without, however, disturbing the luminosity of the white areas. The result is one of the most penetrating self-portraits in the history of prints, and one wonders what the commercial appeal of such a sober image would have been. Portrait prints of the famous were collected as a way of understanding history and envisioning personal traits worthy of emulation .72 Perhaps the etched self-portraits, Leaning on a Stone Sill and Drawing at a Window, illustrated different aspects of the artist's persona: the social grace (not, in fact, Rembrandt's forte) and learning that facilitated dealings with elite patrons, and the skill and industriousness necessary for the practice of art.
A year earlier, Rembrandt had etched his first portrait of Jan Six (also portrayed in a stunning painting in Amsterdam, done in1654), with whom he apparently developed a friendship, despite differences in station and temperament. Six was a wealthy businessman and sometime burgomaster of Amsterdam, with a strong interest in the arts, especially poetry. Whereas the famous painting of 1654 depicts Six putting on gloves as he prepares to go out, poised psychologically on the threshold between his private and public selves, the etching depicts him engrossed in a book in a study setting (fig. 4.44). His public self is suggested only by the attributes of the room. As David Smith has noted, this print evokes a new sense of privacy and inwardness, suggested not only by Six's pose, but also by the deep shadows of the room, contrasted with the outside world implied by the luminous window. Six's face and easy stance convey an unstudied humility and gentility, the very essence of the ideal gentleman as defined by Castiglione in his Book of the Courtier.73The blacks of this print are so rich as to suggest comparison with mezzotint, one of the primary "tonal" (non-linear) intaglio techniques to be discussed in the next chapter, but Rembrandt has achieved them by fine layers of etched, drypoint, and burin lines. The few highlights are therefore especially scintillating. The sunlight passes through Six's thin, light hair to disperse itself sparingly around the dark room. The man who planned to sell Rembrandt a house in 1655 was aware of this etching's superb quality. He was willing to accept payment in both money and art: "the forenamed Rijn shall etch [a portrait of the seller] from the life, to be of the quality of the portrait of Heer van Six." 74
Rembrandt began to make landscape etchings only around1640; they are confined within his oeuvre to the forties and early fifties. His landscape paintings, on the other hand, belong predominantly to the 163os and 1640s and are often indebted to the Mannerist tradition and to Seghers' fantastic, mountainous views .71 But in his prints, the landscape is the familiar area around Amsterdam, not copied with topographic accuracy by any means, but studied and absorbed through experience. The Three Trees (1643; fig. 4.45) is based on sketches made in the environs of the city, although it contains echoes of Seghers' drama. Rembrandtmust have had the experience, familiar to those who live on flat land, of noticing a striking configuration of trees against the illuminated horizon. Their scale and their dark, vertical shapes sharpen our sense of the expanse and flatness of the terrain. The utter simplicity of the motif cannot explain the uncanny grandeur of this print, in which human activity and meteorological turbulence combine. Rain clouds loom at the left while the sun still shines bright on the right. The land is striped with sun and shadow as a result of the clouds' rapid movement. Here and there we gradually discover the human inhabitants: barely visible lovers in the foliage in the right corner, a fisherman and his wife at the left, a cartful of peasants and an artist sketching, seen against the sky at the right, and dwellings, cattle, and more people stretching out toward the horizon at the left.
The activities depicted suggest that Rembrandt had a particular meaning in mind: the pleasures and virtues of the simple country life, sought out by residents of the city (the primary audience for Dutch landscape)-a theme also treated in contemporary Dutch literature. The distant city in the print, the starting point of the artist's sketching excursion, reminds us of cares left behind. The cottages on the dike beyond the trees might be part of a country estate, built by a city-dweller to escape from his urban world. The large trees themselves have been interpreted in terms of Dutch moralizing emblems relating the strong tree that withstands storms to the virtuous person .76 It may also be significant that the trees are oaks, symbols of fortitude in faith, as we have seen in Ddrer's Knight, Death, and the Devil (fig.2.14), and that their arrangement is reminiscent of the three crosses on Golgotha .77 Within this rendering of his native countryside, then, Rembrandt conveyed a spiritual message: return to the simple, pastoral life to recover moral strength and inner spiritual peace. Because of his extensive use of drypoint, we can conclude that the audience for the print was relatively small. It undoubtedly provided psychological refreshment to Rembrandt's Amsterdam patrons.
The Three Trees exists in only one state, albeit in various inkings, so we cannot retrace with accuracy Rembrandt's procedure. Etching, drypoint, and burin work are thoroughly mingled in the lower right, for example, where the detail of the lovers is nearly lost. The richness of Rembrandt's line is best observed in the landscape at the left of the print, where the sense of space depends almost entirely on subtle variations in the thickness of line, and in the sky, where ephemeral and decisive strokes combine with surface tone to suggest the moistureladen clouds and rain falling in sheets across part of the land. A graininess of uncertain origin also appears here and in the pastures beneath-did Rembrandt apply a sulphur tint (a technique in which sulphur is used like aquatint) or were the marks made manually on the plate?71
The most panoramic of all seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes, at least in print, is an etching-drypoint by Rembrandt of1651 (fig. 4.46), known in only one state, although the burr varies in different impressions. In contrast to The Three Trees, this print shows a preference for
unworked, open areas and less detail that is typical of Rembrandt's etched landscapes of the1650S.79 It is traditionally known as The Goldweigher's Field because it was thought to represent the estate of a tax receiver, Jan Uytenbogaert, whom Rembrandt depicted as a goldweigher in an etching of 1639. The locale, however, seen in reverse, has been identified as Saxenburg, the estate of Christoffel Thijsz. near Haarlem (the church of St. Bavo is in the left distance) .80 At the time Rembrandt made the print, he owed Thijsz. money for a home he had purchased in Amsterdam. It is possible, Stone-Ferrier has suggested, that Thijsz. commissioned the "portrait" of his estate from Rembrandt. The linen-bleaching fields in the right middleground may suggest Thijsz.'s connection to the textile industry of Haarlem or simply his pride in both the natural and the human attributes of the area around his estate."
Rembrandt's use of curving lines to the right and left created a bowl-shaped composition that gives a sense of space expanding radially from an invisible central axis. Even though the geometric center of the horizon bears no special visual distinction, we are putted to it as if by magnetic force, and compelled to traverse the intervening fields and wooded areas. This rapid movement is augmented by the rich drypoint burr (in early impressions) in the foreground, which is likened to the natural, optical blurring of close objects whenever we focus on distant
Rembrandt van Rijn. Jan Six. 1647. Etching, drypoint, and burin. 245 X 1,93 mm. ClevelandMuseum ofArt.
ones. The print is one of the foremost examples of that Baroque compulsion to seduce into and carry the viewer through pictorial space.
Dutch Protestantism's emphasis on the Bible surely contributed to Rembrandt's constant probing of the Old and New Testaments, and to the market for his biblical prints .82 We cannot ascertain Rembrandt's true religious affiliation. Although he appears to have been officially connected to the Dutch Reformed or Calvinist Church, Gary Schwartz has recently stressed his -connections to the anti-Calvinist, or pro-Remonstrant, faction in Dutch society and politiCS.83 Rembrandt knew people of varied religious persuasions: Catholics, Jews, Mennonites, and members of Protestant sectarian groups. Most likely he was as independent in spiritual matters as in everything else. Clearly, however, his works plumb the central issues of Protestant thought. As no other artist before or after him, he explored the nooks and crannies of Bible stories, his understanding deepening as his life went on, and he produced different versions of the same narrative in prints, drawings, and paintings.
His fascination with certain biblical themes was often directly related to events in his own life.14 In two superb etchings done ten years apart (figs. 4.47, 4.48), Rembrandt treated different aspects of the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22: 1-19), in which God, testing the patriarch's faith, commands him to substitute his son for the ram about to be sacrificed. judging from the frequent appearance of contemporary and biblical domestic motifs in his works (especially in drawings), Rembrandt must have found great joy in family life with Saskia, and then Hendrickje, and his two children (Titus by Saskia and Cornelia by Hendrickje). He had also experienced the loss of children, and so the story of Abraham's excruciating choice must have impressed him as particularly poignant. Not only was Abraham's pain personally meaningful to Rembrandt; it also embodied the Protestant emphasis on absolute faith in God, the covenant between God and mankind, and the power of God's grace."
In contrast to Ugo da Carpi's woodcut after Titian (see fig.3.45), both of Rembrandt's etchings focus clearly on Abraham's choice. The earlier etching (1645) stresses the father's moral agony. He beckons his son to approach with a gesture that also points to the reason for what he is about to do. His other hand, clutching his breast, is no less expressive. His body bends from the weight of his decision. Isaac, holding the wood for the holocaust, is utterly trusting, dependent, and fearless; he stands upright, concerned and inquisitive about his father's obvious distress. This is a simple scene, but a wealth of emotion charges the small space between the two protagonists. As in The Death of the Virgin (fig. 4.40), Rembrandt's lines (and hence textures) are richly varied. Etching and burin work combine with his wiping of the plate (note the heavy, drypoint-like blotches of ink) to produce a scintillating surface.
In the etching with drypoint of1655, more emphasis is lent to the overtly 4ramatic moment when an angel approaches to stay Abraham's hand. Rembrandt had treated this moment before in two thoroughly baroque early paintings, one in Leningrad and one in Munich. Now, Abraham shields Isaac's eyes with his large, comforting hand. His son still does not believe that any harm could come to him and submits docilely to his father's will. Ultimately, his trust is not misguided, for a rugged angel appears out of nowhere to stop the sacrifice. His embrace of the patriarch is controlling yet protective and loving, much like Abraham's grasp on Isaac. For Rembrandt, love between people and love between God and mankind were analogous, and mystery was readily found in ordinary life and human relationships.
Conversely, the divine takes on the garb of the ordinary in Rembrandt's works, only to have its true nature revealed through unpretentious pictorial means. The Virgin and Child (fig. 4.49), a charming etching of 1654, part of an informal series on the Infancy of Christ, takes its cue from an engraving by Mantegna in which Mary is seated on the ground as a Madonna of Humility embracing her child (see figs. 3.16, 3.17). For all the room's homey detail (a cat, a chair, an open box of mending), we note that it is elevated-an old symbolic motif denoting Mary's virginity. An oval pane of glass suggests a halo. From under her skirts crawls the serpent on which she treads: through the immaculate birth and sacrifice of Christ, original sin is defeated. The naturalism of this image seems to belong to Rembrandt's sensibility alone, yet it is really a fulfillment of the northern tradition of "disguised" symbolism-somewhat misnamed by Panofsky, since to a contemporary audience the meanings would not seem to be hidden-whereby religious significance inhabits the objects of the everyday world.16
Rembrandt developed the theme of Christ preaching in an intimate and an epic mode. Both express the Protestant stress on preaching the gospel-as St. Paul had written: "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom.10: 17). The so-called Hundred Guilder Print (completed in 1649; fig. 4.50), named after its price as recorded in eighteenth-century sources, recounts the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. It is Rembrandt's most ambitious religious composition, unprecedented in the scope of its thematic treatment and very large in scale. We know of only two states of this print, and these differ merely in a small addition to the neck of a donkey on the right. But a large number of preparatory drawings, and pentimenti (changes) on the plate show the care Rembrandt took with the individual figures-the position of Christ's hand and eyes, for example-and figure groups.
Rembrandt studied the aspects of Christ's ministry described in this passage of scripture carefully, not just for literal accuracy, but for deeper meaning. Matthew speaks of the multitudes of poor and sick who flock to Christ when he arrives in Judaea. These people, each sensitively portrayed, walk, or are carried on litters and carts, from the right. Also present are mothers wanting Christ to bless their children: "The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom
Rembrandt van Rijn. Abraham and Isaac. 1-645. Etching and burin. 158 X _r3i mm. ClevelandMuseum ofArt.
Rembrandt van Rijn. Abraham's Sacrifice. 16-55. Etching and drypoint. 156 X r3i mm. k S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago.
of heaven."' Rembrandt depicted a child urging its mother and infant sibling toward Christ, who has already been approached by another mother with her baby. Peter is admonished for his attempt to stop them with the firm gesture of Christ's right arm, which also welcomes the supplicants.
Matthew also recounts an attempt by the Pharisees to entangle Christ in a debate on divorce (a test of whether his thought violated the Jewish law). They appear at the upper left, engaged in vigorous discussion. The juxtaposition of Pharisees and Christ illustrates the dichotomy between the law and the gospel, with Christ insisting upon the spirit and not the letter of the law. Beneath and to the right of the Pharisees is a pensive young man sketched in drypoint. He is the wealthy youth of verses16- '24 who asks Christ how he might obtain eternal life. Christ answers that he must first give up his riches and follow him. Confused and disturbed, the young man departs, whereupon Christ remarks that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The camel passing through the narrow arch at the right recalls these words. Thus, in a totally convincing, natural manner, a great many scriptural references are combined.
These separate references are united, however, by the emphasis on the kingdom: who shall enter it, and how one may enter it. It is not those who dominate the current world (the chapter ends, "But many that are first will be last, and the last first"). It is not through obedience to the law or good works, but through faith, such as that exhibited by those who have come to be healed. It requires the innocent trust and openness of a child and precludes the profound involvement with the material world that riches entail. It requires the unconditional love of other people that Christ exemplifies.
Rembrandt's print is thus a visual homily on the nature of faith and salvation, understood particularly from the Protestant perspective. Christ blessing the children, the contrast between the law and the gospel, and the totally transforming nature of faith are all stressed in Protestant thought.117 We have already noted the changing attitude toward the indigent in seventeenthcentury Holland. However, Rembrandt wanted to do more here than evoke sympathy. As Robert Baldwin has recently shown in detail, Dutch Protestantism understood the poor and
In the next decade Rembrandt produced Christ Preaching (fig. 4.51), a smaller print based partly on an engraving after a drawing by Maerten de Vos in which St. Peter, not Christ, preaches. In comparison to The Hundred Guilder Print, the later composition is less complex and we are brought closer to the scene. As is usually the case with Rembrandt's religious works, the later interpretations of a theme focus more on inner reality than external narrative. Here,
Christ heals souls, not physical illness. He speaks; the crowd listens. The basic message of The Hundred Guilder Print-the centrality of faith-is thus embodied here in every figure who ponders Christ's words. The old man in the lower right with his chin on his hand is especially moving. Entirely rapt, he seems to have lost awareness of his body as he absorbs Christ's message. With his arms slightly outstretched in an open-palmed gesture that suggests his sacrifice on the cross, Christ is emphasized by a vertical pillar behind him and the luminous area in front.
As he speaks, Christ contemplates a woman with two young children. One plays in the dirt, his top set aside. Top-spinning, like many other children's games, put together in one famous painting by Bruegel (156o; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), functioned as a metaphor for folly,91 and Rembrandt may have recalled that meaning here. More generally, however, the infants express the Protestant emphasis on our child-like nature. William Halewood has noted that even the adults in this print have child-like proportions and gestures: to Christ we are all like children, forgivable despite our weakness and imperfection .92 Perhapsit is significant that the little boy has put aside his top, and scribbles in the dirt as Christ himself did in the episode of the adulteress (John 8: 1 - ii). As that writing suggested a tacit communication between Christ and God the Father, we know here that the child, despite his inattention to the sermon, is bound to Christ through love.
This plate was bitten once, then heavily reworked with burin and drypoint. The latter medium is particularly appropriate for this image, in which Christ's benevolent warmth andFIGURE 4.51
the crowd's hushed receptiveness are the keynotes. The intimate mood is also augmented by the use of Japan paper in some impressions: the drypoint burr is enriched and differentiated more thoroughly from the fluid hatching of etched lines.
Two prints of Rembrandt's late period are done entirely in drypoint and burin:Christ Presented to the People (sometimes incorrectly titled Ecce Homo) and The Three Crosses. Both of these prints illustrate Rembrandt's willingness to transform his plates for the sake of uncovering new possibilities of meaning in religious themes. The first state of Christ Presented (fig. 4-520 is closely related to Lucas van Leyden's century-earlier Ecce Homo (fig. 2.44), an engraving that reflects in turn a long tradition of Netherlandish images of the mocked and beaten Christ shown to the crowd that chose Barabbas' freedom rather than his. Pilate says to them, "Behold the man"-ecce homo in Latin (John 19: 5). Like Lucas, Rembrandt referred in his print to the contemporary practice of sentencing prisoners in public squares '93 but shows a different moment in the story. Christ has not been beaten and wears no crown of thorns. This is the very moment when the crowd chooses between Christ and Barabbas. Margaret Carroll emphasizes this moment of choice as the key to Rembrandt's meaning. We are forced to focus less on Christ's suffering than on our own role as choosers and, hence, on the ultimate fallibility of human justice .94
In subsequent states, Rembrandt cut down the plate at the top, primarily so that it would fit on a piece of Japan paper, but also probably because the architecture was in danger of overwhelming the figures. He added details and definition to the remaining architecture and
to figures in the crowd and on the platform. At the fifth state, when much of the burr had worn down, he began to rethink the composition as a whole. He scraped and burnished until most of the foreground crowd was obliterated. (A major exception is the old man at the right whose prayer is projected in shadow upon the platform.) Now, the main drama occurs not between Christ and the foreground crowd, but between Christ and the viewer.
In the seventh state (fig.4.53), a strange image replaces the crowd: a canal-like chasm, framed by two arches suggesting the opening of a dungeon or sewer and guarded by an emaciated old man holding an urn, who looks like an antique river god and has been variously identified (White called him Neptune).91 Carroll notes his infernal character and identifies him as Acheron, god of the first river of the underworld, who greeted souls at the entrance of Hades and who had been interpreted as an embodiment of the torments of a guilty conscience. The introduction of this figure is accompanied by changes in Christ: he is more weary, and his gaze is lowered toward us. He thus approaches the mocked and beaten Christ (the Man of Sorrows) of the traditional Ecce Homo representations. This is the Christ whose sacrifice at the hands of a miscarried justice frees us from sin, death, and bondage to the law, the imperfections of which are symbolized by the cracking platform with its denizen of hell and the abyss below. Christ represents grace, which is contrasted in this print and in Protestant thought in general to the law: faith above works; the spirit of the law above the letter .96
The seventh state is signed and dated1655, as if Rembrandt considered the plate complete. But he took only three impressions from it that we know of, and produced an eighth state in which the old man is largely burnished away. According to White's analysis, Rembrandt recognized the obtrusiveness of "that unsuitable intruder from another, more watery, world."
While acknowledging Rembrandt's effort to erase the figure, Carroll notes that the phantomlike appearance of the old man (now urn-less) reminds us more powerfully of the death from which we might be saved. At the same time his "disembodiment" brings us spatially closer to the platform and spiritually closer to the choice we must make.91 Neptune or Acheron, the old man and the pit he guards must have represented. for Rembrandt the dark emptiness that turning away from Christ implied. Thus, as we look from the platform to the frightening, enigmatic image below, we are engaged in choosing, no longer able to slough this decision onto a crowd.
The changes between the third and fourth states ofThe Three Crosses (figs. 4.54, 4.55) are just as remarkable as the waxing and waning of our old river god, but more intelligible, since they are based on a change in Rembrandt's scriptural sources. The first three states were apparently all executed in 1653 and are based on Luke's narrative of the Crucifixion (23:44-48):
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, "Certainly this man was innocent!" And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.
Rembrandt's basic fidelity to this text is clear. Figures "return home" in the foreground (the exhausted Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry the cross, is supported by companions as he leaves toward the left, while Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hurry off to prepare Christ's grave toward the right). Kneeling at the left of the cross is the converted centurion, borrowed from an engraving by the Master of the Die(1532-). Halewood, however, points out Rembrandt's preference for Matthew's version of the centurion's words, "Truly this was the Son of God!" (27: 54), for the stance of this figure shows that he is overwhelmed.99
The good and bad thieves, distinguished uniquely in the Lukan text, are differentiated by liaht and shadow and placed to the right and left of the cross respectively. The traditional placement of the good thief on Christ's right was, of course, reversed in printing; apparently this detail did not disturb Rembrandt at this point.100 Christ has expired while darkness moves over the earth, save for the powerful cone of light that falls over Christ, the good thief, and the core of mourners under the cross. Rembrandt utilized the first two states to establish this cone of light more firmly, by subordinating much of the rich detail of the crowd at the left, balancing this area with pitch blackness of the grave at the lower right. He signed this state and dated it 1653.
Although, like The Hundred Guilder Print (fig.4.50), the third state of The Three Crosses contains a wealth of detail, its focus is more on a single moment of spiritual revelation, so that its title could more narrowly be "The Conversion of the Centurion." Amid the hysteria of the mourners and the clattering efficiency of the Roman soldiers, a single kneeling man grasps the transcendent meaning of Christ's ignoble death. The light, like an opening into heaven, stands for his sudden understanding.
It was probably around166o that Rembrandt reworked this plate, and the resulting print (fig. 4.55) was to be one of his last and greatest essays in the graphic media (painting dominated
his last years). A mere reworking of the lines in this already densely carved plate would have produced a flat image with little linear variation, so Rembrandt set out to laboriously scrape, burnish, and polish extensive areas. We can tell more about what he did from a maculature (an impression taken from a plate that has already been run through the press to clean out the ink) that is preserved in the British Museum.101 The left of the plate is more radically altered than the right. A rearing horse restrained by a man-taken from an ancient sculpture of the Dioscuri, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda-becomes the dominant form at the far left. This agitated animal augments the sense of terror and panic in the print, but Rembrandt may have intended something more by the Dioscuri motif. For the brothers were taken to refer to the dual nature of Christ, the human half of which is manifested brutally in the Crucifixion.102
Replacing the figures who were under the former bad thief is a single helmeted figure and another mounted man wearing a huge hat. The latter is taken from a medal of Gianfrancesco, Gonzaga by Pisanello, and is interpreted by Clark as a detached figure, unaware of the momentousness of the event he witnesses. 1'3But the figure might also be a new version of Longinus, the centurion. If this is so, how are we to understand his attitude? Baldwin describes it as11 an intense inwardness, a nonclassical transcending of the self before an awesome and overwhelming Christian mystery that precludes free action and good works .11104 In other words, Rembrandt changed the centurion figure to emphasize the inner nature of his conversion. In
keeping with the general movement in Rembrandt's art from the gestural to the spiritual, the centurion no longer has to kneel and spread his arms before Christ; rather, he remains utterly still and silent.
On the right a curtain of darkness falls over what were once the good thief and the grave and obscures the once distinct figures in the crowd of mourners. Even considering the tremendous variations in inking and wiping among the different impressions of the various states ofThe Three Crosses, the fourth state is markedly darker than the earlier ones. The light is no longer conical, but falls in a rectangle over Christ, the former bad thief, and the two mounted men. This is not an image of hopeful revelation like the third state. Instead, it is the lowest point in Christ's life, when his cry of anguish is heard and his divinity, veiled in a "mist of torment," as Rembrandt's contemporary jeremias de Decker described it,101 does not seem apparent. Rembrandt's scriptural source is Mark or Matthew: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a
Christ is now alive, and drypoint marks make his suffering even more
apparent. followers beneath the cross and we, the viewers, share in his
suffering. The running figure tothe right of center flees from this terrible
moment, as we are tempted to flee. Christ is now more completely isolated from
everyone by the darkness that blocks off the side of the com-
position. Thus, Rembrandt has focused more relentlessly on human weakness and on the crisis of faith that Christ's death provokes. The fourth state of The Three Crosses is a more demanding, uncompromising image.
In Christ Presented to the People and The Three Crosses, Rembrandt turned away from etching and the mastery of the needle, and multiple biting and stopping-out, toward a more direct "attack" on the plate. Why? Like Michelangelo, Rembrandt seems in his late years to have become increasingly frustrated by his materials and the conventional ways of handling them. The desire for a revelatory clarity and depth of expression demanded a directness that the inherently circuitous art of printmaking (especially the kind of etching that Rembrandt had developed), like the necessarily slow and careful process of carving marble, could not supply. The physically difficult hammering, scraping, burnishing, and recarving of The Three Crosses plate, like Michelangelo's hacking away of the stone in his late Florence and Rondanini Pietis, represent the stubborn will of the aged artist to force the materials to do his bidding. And that bidding was a conception of a theme so profoundly personal that it stood outside normal iconographic traditions, and certainly outside the stylistic expectations of their contemporaries. The terror of the running figure in the fourth state of The Three Crosses, one feels, is Rembrandt's own. Some have even suggested that this figure is a self-portrait, although this is impossible to ascertain.106 The appeal of this dark print, with its awkward divisions into rectangles and trapezoids of tone and its chunky, minimally articulated figures, lies not only in the technical finessse it exhibits, but in the documentation it provides of the spiritual life of a great artist.
Rembrandt was a gifted teacher, and some of his pupils, most notably Ferdinand Bol and Jan Joris van Vliet, were skilled etchers. But beyond this immediate impact, his prints set new technical, expressive, and aesthetic standards. His own fascination for varied states and impressions proved to be both the harbinger and the delight of a dawning sensibility. By1700, a new consciousness about states and quality of impression began to manifest itself in collections such as that of the Amsterdam art dealer, Jan Pietersz. Zomer (or Zoomer), assembled from about 1670 to 1720. Zomer described his collection Of 42,8 Rembrandts as "complete, including every state, excellent impressions, and such that neither he, nor anyone else could collect their likes." 107 In 1751, Rembrandt's prints were the first to be cataloged by a dealer (Edme-Fran~ois Gersaint), an indication that prints could take their place along with paintings in any full understanding of an artist's oeuvre.101
In contemporary England, the demand for Rembrandt's prints reached a peak, even while, as Ellen D'Oench notes, his paintings were criticized for their lack of idealization. Both the print's lower status in the artistic hierarchy of media and the development of printconnoisseurship contributed to the English craze for Rembrandt's prints, roundly censured by the critic William Gilpin in his Essay upon Prints (written in1753 and published in 1768). As English mezzotinters, enamored with Rembrandt's chiaroscuro, produced reproductions of his paintings and prints or original works in the manner of Rembrandt, a more dubious homage occurred as the Rembrandt copyist Captain William Baillie, having purchased the plate of The Hundred Guilder Print, issued a notorious restrike (posthumous impression) in 1776, and then actually cut the plate into four sections and printed from those. In doing so, of course, he destroyed Rembrandt's brilliant gathering into one image of the full spectrum of humanity touched by Christ-a quality that had been praised by Jonathan Richardson in his second edition of the Essay on the Theory oftainting (1725).'09
For the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Rembrandt's prints continued to represent the highest standards of autographic work on an intaglio plate. For the so-called etching revival of the late nineteenth century, for example, his simpler etched landscapes epitomized freshness for numerous professional and amateur etchers. But what was most enviable about Rembrandt as a printmaker was essentially inimitable, because it depended upon a unique vision of all that could be done with a metal plate wedded to a compelling view of humanity and nature. His most personal graphic expressions-his complex, combined intaglio prints like The Three Trees, The Hundred Guilder Print, and The Three Crosses-defy the flattery of imitation.
The Baroque tradition of original etching was carried on by a few outstanding printmakers in the eighteenth century and would flourish again, more vigorously, in the nineteenth. There was a counterpoint to this tradition, however: the growth of reproductive printmaking, which fostered a highly systematic use of the burin or combination of the burin with theetching needle, and the invention of various non-linear intaglio processes. It is to these developments-Marcantonio Raimondi's legacy-that we now turn.