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

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669
Old Man Shading His Eyes with His Hand, c. 1639
etching and drypoint
National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund 1998.25.1

Rembrandt never signed or dated this etching. Is it truly unfinished, or only unfinished in a conventional sense? The summary indications of pose and background make clear that the artist foresaw a more complete image. However, the intense focus of the figure and its firm positioning suggest that Rembrandt may have stopped short because he had accomplished the essential in what he set out to do. The unfinished areas amplify the effect of the light that motivates the old man's gesture. Rembrandt was preoccupied with vision and blindness, which suggests that here, too, he may have intended us to reflect on the nature and vulnerability of sight.

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