REMBRANDT, Harmensz. van Rijn
Etching and drypoint, 21,4 x 16,3 cm, very thin laid paper, unsigned (trimmed to the borderline, professionally remargined, sm. professionally repaired tear in lower left corner, tiny piece of upper margin torn, four sm. repairs with Japan paper on verso, not affecting the image).
Few of Rembrandt's etchings are as enigmatic as this one. It shows an elderly scholar in his study, transfixed by the apparition of a blazing disc of light enclosing a series of letters. Although sometimes interpreted as Dr. Faustus in his study, the exact iconographical meaning is still shrouded in mystery. Some have interpreted him as an alchemist, intent on his experiments, while others have instead sought the solution in esoteric contexts, intending the writing in the luminous apparition to be a reference to the Kabbalists of Hebrew mysticism, referring to the people Rembrandt would meet with in the Amsterdam ghetto. Whatever the real significance of the scene, what endlessly fascinates in this etching is Rembrandt’s almost magical ability to master the rendering of light and to use it to convey a strongly emotional and transcendental message, using only black and white means. The 4th state (of 7), with addition of shadows on the pile of books to the right, and additional hatching and soft shadows on the shoulders and right arm of the figure.
Ref. Hollstein 270.2. - New Hollstein (Rembrandt), 270.4. - Hind 260.
Prov. Count Guiseppe Archinto (Milan 1783-1861), Italian count with a rich collection of prints and drawings. He was often assisted by print dealer and connoisseur Guiseppe Vallardi (1784-1863) for the composition of his collection. (coll. stamp on verso, Lugt 547).
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