The Unfinished Print: 3 June to 7 October 2001

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669
Christ Presented to the People, 1655
drypoint (state vii/vii)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection 1945.5.109

View state: v/vii | vii/vii

Rembrandt's decision to rub out (burnish) the foreground in the final state of the plate comes as a shock. Whether this was occasioned by damage to the plate or a dramatic shift in his interpretation of the event remains a mystery, all the more so because of the strange apparition set in place of the people. Rembrandt's transformation is most dramatic below the proscenium where a ghostly giant appears framed by the arches of a crypt. As if to signal the elevation of human tragedy to a portent of epic disaster, the face of Hercules lodged in the right-hand niche above the entryway has been scarred into the aspect of a monster. Only in this last, sullied conception did Rembrandt sign and thereby authorize the print for a commercial edition, even though the entire center-foreground is defiled by incomplete burnishing.

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