Wednesday, July 1, 2015

14 Portraits by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Studies of the head of Saskia and others Etching, 1636, a fine early impression of New Hollstein's first state of two, with fine zig-zag lines on the forehead of the woman lower centre and numerous fine wiping scratches, on laid, with thread margins, 151 x 126mm (5 7/8 x 4 7/8in)(PL)(unframed)
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
Studies of the head of Saskia and others
(Bartsch 365; New Hollstein 157) 
Etching, 1636, a fine early impression of New Hollstein's first state of two, with fine zig-zag lines on the forehead of the woman lower centre and numerous fine wiping scratches, on laid, with thread margins, 151 x 126mm (5 7/8 x 4 7/8in)

In Studies of the head of Saskia, and others, Rembrandt has depicted his wife Saskia surrounded by six other figures of different ages. The etching is reminiscent of a sketchbook page, on which Rembrandt is practicing the portrayal of different expressions and the fall of drapery. Saskia receives the most detailed study with very fine lines used to render her curls and a thin headdress. Each figure looks out in a different direction ensuring that the viewer's eye darts from one to another, taking in the artistry of each individual face. Only the earliest impressions have the fine zig-zag lines on the woman's forehead at the lower centre of the image and fine wiping scratches.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self Portrait in a slant fur cap: Bust Etching and engraving, circa 1631, a good impression of New Hollstein's fifth state of seven, with additional diagonal shading to the upper lip and the forehead, on laid, trimmed to or along the platemark, 62 x 56mm (2 3/8 x 2 1/4in)(PL)
Self Portrait in a slant fur cap: Bust
 (Bartsch 14; New Hollstein 97) 
Etching and engraving, circa 1631, a good impression of New Hollstein's fifth state of seven, with additional diagonal shading to the upper lip and the forehead, on laid, trimmed to or along the platemark, 62 x 56mm (2 3/8 x 2 1/4in

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self Portrait with plumed cap and lowered sabre Etching and engraving, 1634, a fine impression of the final third state, after the plate has been reduced to a regular oval, on laid, with a Foolscap watermark, trimmed to the platemark, 130 x 108mm (5 1/8 x 4 1/4in)(PL)(unframed)
Self Portrait with plumed cap and lowered sabre 
(Bartsch 23; New Hollstein 135) 
Etching and engraving, 1634, a fine impression of the final third state, after the plate has been reduced to a regular oval, on laid, with a Foolscap watermark, trimmed to the platemark, 130 x 108mm (5 1/8 x 4 1/4in)

Rembrandt was an enthusiastic collector, amassing a collection of costumes and props which he would use in his compositions. His self portraits were used to experiment and to promote his work. Rather than depicting an exact likeness here, he has produced an idealized portrait. The exotic dress, modelled with dense hatching, creates a certain mystery, whilst the highlights on the collar, convincingly suggestive of the metal breastplate, display his expertise.
The sabre of the title only appears in the rare first state where the plate is rectangular and shows Rembrandt in a three-quarter length pose. In the second and third it has been reduced to an oval, concentrating the viewer's attention on the artist.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self Portrait with Saskia Etching, 1636, New Hollstein's third state of four, with a small area of false biting next to his collar on the right, on laid with narrow margins, with a DG countermark, 104 x 95mm (4 1/8 x 3 3/4in)(PL)
Self Portrait with Saskia 
(Bartsch 19; New Hollstein 158) 
Etching, 1636, New Hollstein's third state of four, with a small area of false biting next to his collar on the right, on laid with narrow margins, with a DG countermark, 104 x 95mm (4 1/8 x 3 3/4in

Self Portrait in a cap and scarf with the face dark: Bust 
(Bartsch 17; New Hollstein 120) 
Etching, 1633, a fine impression of New Hollstein's second state of five, with the signature and date added, shading added to the sleeve and breast and the moustache extended over the contour of the right cheek, with plate tone and delicate wiping scratches, on laid, with narrow margins, 132 x 103mm (5 1/8 x 4in)

Rembrandt portrays himself in military dress with laces on his shoulder for attaching armour. With his face in deep shadow, it is the thoughtful, reserved pose of a young man. This experimentation with chiaroscuro shows the influence of the Italian masters, such as Caravaggio. Rembrandt collected Italian prints and was able to study the Italian paintings which were being imported into Amsterdam at this time by dealers like Hendrick van Uylenburgh, with whom Rembrandt had lodged on his arrival in the city. This impression is printed with considerable tone in the background and has the delicate wiping scratches and well-inked platemark that indicate an early impression.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill Etching with touches of drypoint, 1639, a fine impression of the second final state, with the cap band extended towards the right and the right cap edge clearly defined, on laid, with narrow margins,  with a countermark possibly 'PDB', 205 x 164mm (8 1/8 x 6 1/2in)(PL)(unframed)
Self Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill 
(Bartsch 21; New Hollstein 171) 
Etching with touches of drypoint, 1639, a fine impression of the second final state, with the cap band extended towards the right and the right cap edge clearly defined, on laid, with narrow margins, with a countermark possibly 'PDB', 205 x 164mm (8 1/8 x 6 1/2in)

Rembrandt produced thirty-two self portraits and this is one of his most splendid. The nonchalant pose with eyes directed at the viewer, inviting judgement, displays his confidence in his ability. This is a masterclass in the depiction of texture. We can see the velvet of his cap, the silk of his sleeve and fine wisps of his hair.

Taking two sixteenth-century portraits as his sources, Titian's Portait of a Man with a Quilted Sleeve (known as Ariosto) and Raphael's Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, Rembrandt portrayed himself as a gentleman and a master of his art, putting himself on a par with these two great Renaissance artists.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self portrait, etching at a window Etching and drypoint, 1648, a very good impression of New Hollstein's seventh state of nine, with the right cheek redefined, the shadows reworked partly with a mezzotint rocker and additional lines in the upper left corner and on his right hand, on laid, with narrow margins, 160 x 130mm (6 1/4 x 5 1/8in)(PL)(unframed)
Self portrait, etching at a window 
(Bartsch 22; New Hollstein 240) 
Etching and drypoint, 1648, a very good impression of New Hollstein's seventh state of nine, with the right cheek redefined, the shadows reworked partly with a mezzotint rocker and additional lines in the upper left corner and on his right hand, on laid, with narrow margins, 160 x 130mm (6 1/4 x 5 1/8in)

Self Portrait, etching at a window was Rembrandt's final etched self portrait and in contrast with earlier portraits, there is a sense of introspection, emphasized by the strong light cast across his face from the window. He still portrays himself as an artist with the tools of his trade before him, holding an etching needle, ready to work on the copper plate on the desk. However, this time there is no fine costume or self-assured posturing. He is in simple working clothes, intent on his work. The sombre mood undoubtedly came from his changed circumstances over the previous decade. Saskia and three of his children had died, his household arrangements were unsettled and his financial situation was uncertain. With these personal trials to contend with, this image was perhaps a confirmation that his artistic endeavors would continue, despite his difficult personal circumstances.

Finely etched lines were employed to model the face and drypoint and burin were then used to define the body, desk and books. This later reworking of the shaded areas served to recall the tonal contrast of the earlier impressions.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) The Card player Etching, 1641, a good impression of New Hollstein's first state of five, with an irregular strip of unworked plate along the upper margin and with an accidental scratch across his left cheekbone and in his hair to the right, on laid, with thread margins, 88 x 82mm (3 7/8 x 3 1/4in)(PL)(unframed)
The Card player 
(Bartsch 136; New Hollstein 193) 
Etching, 1641, a good impression of New Hollstein's first state of five, with an irregular strip of unworked plate along the upper margin and with an accidental scratch across his left cheekbone and in his hair to the right, on laid, with thread margins, 88 x 82mm (3 7/8 x 3 1/4in)

The sitter was probably a student in Rembrandt's studio and also appears in Man at a desk wearing a cross and chain (Below). Rembrandt employs fine lines and cross hatching in the shadows to highlight the features of the young man concentrating on his hand of cards.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) A Man at a Desk wearing a Cross and Chain Etching, 1641, a fine impression of New Hollstein's fourth state of five, with the contours of the book which protruded over the image edge burnished away, details in the hair and face strengthened in drypoint and new shading in the background, with burr on the left sleeve, on thick laid, with narrow margins, 154 x 102mm (6 1/8 x 4in)(PL)(unframed)
A Man at a Desk wearing a Cross and Chain 
(Bartsch 261; New Hollstein 194) 
Etching, 1641, a fine impression of New Hollstein's fourth state of five, with the contours of the book which protruded over the image edge burnished away, details in the hair and face strengthened in drypoint and new shading in the background, with burr on the left sleeve, on thick laid, with narrow margins, 154 x 102mm (6 1/8 x 4in)

This is not a commissioned portrait but the sitter is recognizable as the model for The Card Player (Above), so may have been a student in Rembrandt's studio. Rembrandt used drypoint to highlight the fine areas of the face and hair and to deepen the contrast by darkening the background.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Menasseh Ben Israel Etching, 1636, a good impression of New Hollstein's second state of five, with the indent in the left cheek straightened and shading added in several areas including the right earlobe, the outermost fold of his cloak on the left  and inside the hat just to the right of his left cheek, on laid, with narrow margins, 149 x 103mm (5 7/8 x 4 1/8in)(PL)(unframed)
Menasseh Ben Israel 
(Bartsch 269; New Hollstein 156) 
Etching, 1636, a good impression of New Hollstein's second state of five, with the indent in the left cheek straightened and shading added in several areas including the right earlobe, the outermost fold of his cloak on the left and inside the hat just to the right of his left cheek, on laid, with narrow margins, 149 x 103mm (5 7/8 x 4 1/8in

Menasseh Ben Israel was a rabbi, author and printer, who established the first Hebrew printing press in the Netherlands in 1626 and played an important role in the re-establishment of the Jewish community in England in 1656, having petitioned Oliver Cromwell to this effect. He was a highly regarded scholar and preacher and Rembrandt presents him in a bust length portrait with direct gaze, encouraging the viewer to engage with the character.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Cornelis Claesz. Anslo, Preacher Etching and drypoint, 1641, New Hollstein's third state of five, with reworking around the right eye and the fur lining of the cloak to the right of the book, fine lines added to his left sleeve and his chest below the pen, on thick laid, with thread margins, 188 x 158mm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4in)(PL)(unframed)
Cornelis Claesz. Anslo, Preacher 
(Bartsch 271; New Hollstein 197) 
Etching and drypoint, 1641, New Hollstein's third state of five, with reworking around the right eye and the fur lining of the cloak to the right of the book, fine lines added to his left sleeve and his chest below the pen, on thick laid, with thread margins, 188 x 158mm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4in)

Cornelis Claesz Anslo was a successful cloth merchant and Mennonite preacher beloved for his charitable works. Mennonite beliefs centered on the ministry of Christ and Rembrandt was sympathetic to their liberal theology. Many of his acquaintances were in the congregation, including the art dealer Hendrick Van Uylenburgh, who secured portrait commissions for Rembrandt from amongst the patrons. It is a commanding pose and Rembrandt succeeds in portraying the man of God, as Anslo preaches surrounded by works of scripture, whilst also conveying his professional success through his rich attire.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) The Great Jewish Bride Etching with drypoint, 1635, a fine impression of the final fifth state, with the horizontal lines to indicate the stonework in the right background and additional shading on the wall behind her head, on laid, with a partial watermark of a double-headed eagle, trimmed to the platemark, 220 x 168mm (8 3/4 x 6 3/4in)(PL)(unframed)
The Great Jewish Bride 
(Bartsch 340; New Hollstein 154) 
Etching with drypoint, 1635, a fine impression of the final fifth state, with the horizontal lines to indicate the stonework in the right background and additional shading on the wall behind her head, on laid, with a partial watermark of a double-headed eagle, trimmed to the platemark, 220 x 168mm (8 3/4 x 6 3/4in)

The title is an eighteenth century one and was probably derived from the tradition that Jewish brides met their husbands with their hair down and holding the Ketubah, a document outlining the rights and responsibilities of the groom. Rembrandt lived in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam and was known to use his neighbours as sitters, so it is possible he could have depicted a Jewish tradition. However, it is more likely that the subject is either Minerva, the subject of his painting of the same date, or the biblical heroine Esther. It is probable that the model was Rembrandt's wife Saskia, whom he had married in 1634. The technical skill involved in creatingThe Great Jewish Bride through five states and its visual splendour make this one of Rembrandt's most sought after etchings.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Old man with a divided fur cap Etching and drypoint, 1640, a good impression of New Hollstein's first state of two, with the slipped stroke next to his left eye running from the cap edge to his left cheek, with burr on the cape at the right, on japan laid, with a partial Arms of Amsterdam watermark, trimmed to platemark, 150 x 139mm (5 7/8 x 5 1/2in)(PL)
Old man with a divided fur cap 
(Bartsch 265; New Hollstein 182) 
Etching and drypoint, 1640, a good impression of New Hollstein's first state of two, with the slipped stroke next to his left eye running from the cap edge to his left cheek, with burr on the cape at the right, on japan laid, with a partial Arms of Amsterdam watermark, trimmed to platemark, 150 x 139mm (5 7/8 x 5 1/2in)

The sitter is unknown, but Rembrandt infuses real character into this face with a wealth of finely etched lines and light drypoint touches to give a sense of presence. The fur cap is a Polish kutschma, which appears in several of Rembrandt's drawings.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Jean Lutma, Goldsmith Etching, engraving and drypoint, 1656, New Hollstein's third state of four, with the window and before the cross-hatching in the upper right side of the window border, the upper right area of the chair and around the hammer, on laid, trimmed along or just inside the platemark, 196 x 149mm (7 3/4 x 5 7/8in)(SH)
Jean Lutma, Goldsmith 
(Bartsch 276; New Hollstein 293) 
Etching, engraving and drypoint, 1656, New Hollstein's third state of four, with the window and before the cross-hatching in the upper right side of the window border, the upper right area of the chair and around the hammer, on laid, trimmed along or just inside the platemark, 196 x 149mm (7 3/4 x 5 7/8in)

Jan Lutma was an eminent jeweller and silversmith in Amsterdam and was a major print collector who owned several of Rembrandt's works. Rembrandt presents him in a formal pose, surrounded by some of the tools and creations of his trade, in a suitable advertisement for his profession. However, his relaxed expression, with a hint of a smile, shows that he is at ease and this is perhaps a sign of mutual respect and friendship between the two artists.

Acknowledgment: Bonhams