The Unfinished Print: 3 June to 7 October 2001 Back to Text Back to Image Index

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669
The Artist Drawing from the Model, c. 1639
etching, drypoint, and engraving (state ii/ii)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Print Purchase Fund (Rosenwald Collection) 1968.4.1

This early etching encapsulates the full significance of the unfinished print for Rembrandt. Less than half completed, the major parts of the composition are set down only in drypoint. The figure of the artist shown drawing in his workshop gives every indication of being a self-portrait, and his model (and muse) surely alludes to Venus. Behind them are a large canvas on an easel, a sculpted bust, and other studio props. The image is manifestly an allegory of art. It celebrates the act of rendering, the importance of truth to nature, and the classical tradition, all paradoxically declared in the unfinished portion of the print. Given the subject and its incomplete state, this print must have been understood as a performance in fine draftsmanship and etching technique, but most of all as an unveiling of Rembrandt's creative process.

Copyright ©2001 National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.