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Rembrandt's Religious Etchings

Rembrandt, one of the greatest interpreters of biblical stories, turned to the Bible as a source of inspiration for his etchings throughout his career, but particularly during the 1650s. He depicted not only scenes from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha but also stories found in the New Testament, particularly those centered on the life of Christ. He always demonstrated a remarkable empathy for the human dimension of these accounts, whatever their theological implications. Whether portraying Old Testament patriarchs such as Abraham at moments of spiritual crisis, the Holy Family at rest in a simple dwelling, or Christ preaching, Rembrandt transformed the written word into vividly compelling pictorial language. He made at least two print series, one devoted to the childhood of Christ and one with scenes from Christ’s life and resurrection, both of which are on view in this room.

Abraham Entertaining the Angels, 1656, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7160

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A master printmaker, Rembrandt exploited the etching medium to its fullest, finding within it unprecedented opportunities to express both the natural and spiritual qualities of light in his biblical scenes. He often reprinted his plates in new states as he amended his compositions, frequently by adding drypoint to enhance the velvety textures of materials or the deep darks of shaded areas. Rembrandt experimented with the inking and wiping of his copper plates to create tonal effects that would shape the dramatic character of his scenes. For the same reason, he also experimented with different types of papers; in some, the ink penetrated the paper deeply, while in others, it lies largely diffused over the surface.

Abraham's Sacrifice, 1655, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7161

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David in Prayer, 1652, etching and some drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7219

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Jacob's Ladder, 1655, etching, burin and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7209

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The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake, 1654, etching, Gift of Philip Hofer, 1941.3.13

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The Adoration of the Shepherds: with the Lamp, c. 1654, etching, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7215

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The Flight into Egypt: Crossing a Brook, 1654, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.9113

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The Circumcision in the Stable, 1654, etching, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7214

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Christ Returning from the Temple with His Parents, 1654, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7212

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Christ Preaching (La petite Tombe), c. 1652, etching, engraving, and drypoint, Gift of W.G. Russell Allen, 1955.6.5

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Christ Preaching (The Hundred Guilder Print), c. 1643/1649, etching, drypoint and burin on European (white) paper, Gift of R. Horace Gallatin, 1949.1.48

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Saint Francis beneath a Tree Praying, 1657, drypoint and etching, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7156

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Christ and the Woman of Samaria: an Arched Print, 1658, etching and drypoint, Gift of Philip Hofer, 1941.3.14

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Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves (The Three Crosses), 1653, drypoint and engraving on laid paper, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7174

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The Entombment, c. 1654, etching, drypoint and burin, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7163

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The Entombment, c. 1654, etching, drypoint and burin, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.7271

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Christ Appearing to the Apostles, 1656, etching, Rosenwald Collection, 1950.1.114

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