Art & Design Magazine

Etchings by and After Rembrandt Van Rijn

By Adventuresintheprinttrade
The story of etching in France could be told simply in terms of French etchers' passionate engagement with the work of Rembrandt - as Alison McQueen has effectively done in her brilliant book The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Re-inventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France, which is available in full here. Rembrandt was not just the etchers' guru, as I described Maxime Lalanne in a recent post, but the etchers' god. Those who taught etching to hundreds, such as Charles Waltner or Alphonse Legros, held Rembrandt up as the most brilliant etcher of all time, and their students - such as Legros's star pupil William Strang - learned to gauge their own success or failure by comparison with the work of the Dutch master. Even Impressionist etchers such as Norbert Goeneutte and Henri Guérard started by copying Rembrandts. The result is that, besides the two original Rembrandt etchings that will be the main focus of this post, I have many etchings after Rembrandt by a roll-call of nineteenth century printmakers, all eager to test themselves against the skill of the master. In fact I have one even earlier, by Antoine de Marcenay de Ghuy, signed and dated in the plate 6 October 1755. 10 of de Marcenay's total of 71 prints were studies after Rembrandt.
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Self-PortraitEtching by Antoine de Marcenay de Ghuy, 1755
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Autoportrait (tenant un bâton dans la main gauche)Etching by Pauline Wissant, 1871
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Portrait de l'artisteEtching by Charles Waltner, 1906
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) scarcely needs any more words added to his fame by me. But there are some interesting things to say about his etchings (and I'll just use the word etching to describe them, even though many also show touches of the drypoint needle and the engraver's burin). Rembrandt made about 300 etchings, issuing them in various states with sometimes very small modifications; he had already discovered the kind of collector-based marketing that enables music companies to sell us the same music over and over again by adding an extra track or a remix. The first Rembrandt etchings were pulled by Rembrandt himself, and even if not all the lifetime impressions were hand-printed by Rembrandt, it is obvious that a lifetime proof will be of far greater value than any posthumous one.
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Saskia van UlenburgEtching by William Unger, 1876
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Un GueuxEtching by Henri Guérard, 1876
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Portrait de Rembrandt, d'après lui-mêmeEtching by A. Protche, 1974
With posthumous impressions, however, the water gets murkier. It's not necessarily so that the earliest posthumous prints from Rembrandt copper plates are the best, nor that what is printed is entirely Rembrandt's. Copper is a very soft metal, which is what makes it ideal for etching and drypoint, but this softness also means that copper plates wear away with alarming speed. At various times engravers, often highly skilled, have tried to "improve" degraded Rembrandt plates, taking the image ever further from the touch of Rembrandt's own hand. The mid-nineteenth century put a stop to that, with the invention of the process known as steel facing, whereby a copper plate is given a thin coating of steel by electrotyping. This steel face does not damage the plate, and can be removed from it. It prevents any further wear, though obviously it cannot repair wear already received, nor remove the traces of previous restorers.
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, PaysageEtching by Jules Jacquemart, 1877
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Landschaft mit ruinenEtching by William Unger, 1886
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, WinterlandschaftEtching by William Unger, 1886
A large collection of Rembrandt copper plates, deriving from the estate of Rembrandt's close friend, the Amsterdam print dealer Clément de Jonghe, has survived to this day. After passing through various hands, it was sold at auction in London in 1993, and the plates dispersed. Eight of these have since been reprinted, with some controversy you can easily discover for yourself via Google, as the Millennium Edition. I don't have any of these controversial Rembrandt re-strikes, but I do have two beautiful Rembrandt etchings printed from other plates in the same hoard in 1929. At that date the plates belonged to M. Alvin-Beaumont, who had bought them in 1906. He had the plates rigorously assessed and then vehemently championed by the etcher and art historian Charles Coppier, and the publication of small editions of three of them in 1929 was accompanied by a long and argumentative essay by Coppier, mainly concerned with rubbishing the expertise of every previous authority on Rembrandt's etchings. This extreme cross-fighting in the field of Rembrandt studies has continued unabated to the present day. The plates were published in an edition of 605 copies on very high-quality laid paper. There is a watermark (filigrane) in the paper, but unfortunately I don't recognize it. The publisher was the art revue Byblis: Miroir des arts du livre et de l'estampe. This was published in two editions: 105 deluxe copies, with the text on Arches, and 500 ordinary copies, with the text on vélin pur fil Lafuma. The deluxe copies had extra prints, many prints in two different states, and many prints hand-signed by the artists. As mine is one of the ordinary ones, it only has two Rembrandt prints, lacking Les Pélerins d'Emmaüs of 1654. The printer Jacquemin, Paris. Coppier writes of the plates and the proofs: "Ces trois cuivres, on le voit, sont à peu près intacts, et donnent encore des épreuves magnifiques." These three plates, as can be seen, are almost pristine, and still yield magnificent impressions.
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal SonOriginal etching, 1636Printed from the original copper plate in 1929Refs: Bartsch 91, Hind 147
The earlier of my Rembrandt etchings is Le retour de l'enfant prodigue (The Return of the Prodigal Son), etched in 1636. After the 1993 sale, the original copper plate for this was bought by the Rembrandthuis. The Biblical scene is rendered with great pathos and emotion. There's a good essay on this etching here, so I won't go on about it!
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Beggars Receiving Alms at the Door of a HouseOriginal etching, 1648Printed from the original copper plate in 1929Refs: Bartsch 176, Hind 233
My second Rembrandt etching is Les mendiants à la porte d'une maison (Beggars Receiving Alms at the Door of a House) from 1648. This is a very interesting scene in which Rembrandt explores his enduring fascinating with beggars and outcasts; perhaps he felt that at any moment he might become one. The website of the Rijksmuseum notes that the father of this beggar family is probably blind, and that he is carrying a hurdy-gurdy, "the typical instrument of the itinerant musician".
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Portrait d'hommeEtching by Charles Courtry, 1881
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Tête de vieillardEtching by Jules Jacquemart, 1877
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Die Judenbraut (The Jewish Bride)Etching by Willem Steelink, 1891
Rembrandt's complete etchings can be explored here. One word of warning before I go. In the nineteenth century the firm of Amand-Durand made excellent heliogravure facsimiles of Rembrandt etchings. These are photo-engravings (possibly with some fine detailing by drypoint) rather than hand-made prints. So convincing are they that they are often offered for sale as original etchings after Rembrandt. Decorative and desirable they may be, but etchings they are not.
Etchings by and after Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt, Portrait of His WifeEtching by N. S. Mossolow, 1892

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Handpainted “Etchings”

    Handpainted “Etchings”

    I found a great website that has tons of FREE art to download, and every picture looks like an old etching. If you paint over printouts lightly with... Read more

    By  Kathybarbro
  • The Rembrandt House Museum

    Rembrandt van Rijn: without a doubt, one of the most gifted and remarkable painters to come out of the Golden Age. Born in Leiden, he moved to Amsterdam in 1631. Read more

    By  Amsterdam City Tours
  • Grind #64 :: Silence, Autism and Music of the Mind

    Grind Silence, Autism Music Mind

    In Today's Edition of the Daily Grind, we fixate on science, health and the human mind. It's an uplifting, informative mix. My hope is you'll learn something,... Read more

    By  Ventipop
  • Arrival (2016) – Review

    Arrival (2016) Review

    Review: In Arrival, 12 extraterrestrial saucers mysteriously appear and float above 12 different places around the Earth. Clueless of what they may encounter,... Read more

    By  Paskalis Damar
  • New Year’s Art Projects

    Year’s Projects

    I’m back to work after visiting with family for two weeks over the holidays. Happy New Year! In the studio on this sunny but frigidly cold first week of January... Read more

    By  Artbycedar
  • Interview with Ed Ruscha

    Interview with Ruscha

    Author: Elena Cué Ed Ruscha. Photo: Elena Cué Ed Ruscha (1937, Omaha, Nebraska) is one of the survivors of the American Pop Art, movement that has maintained... Read more

    By  Alejandra
  • Stonewall Season - Charity Auction & Party

    Stonewall Season Charity Auction Party

    From 1-10 November Stonewall will be hosting Stonewall Season, a series of events that celebrate LGBT life, culture and people - culminating in a Closing... Read more

    By  Waynechisnall