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Release Date: January 21, 2005

Biblical Scenes are Subject of Rembrandt's Remarkable Late Etchings

Etchings Are Installed Adjacent to New Exhibition of Paintings, "Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits,"On View at National Gallery of Art, January 30 – May 1, 2005

Washington, DC—Remarkable etchings of biblical subjects produced in the 1650s by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)—one of the greatest artistic interpreters of biblical stories—are on view in the National Gallery of Art’s West Building Dutch Cabinet Galleries, in conjunction with the exhibition Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits, January 30 through May 1, 2005. Rembrandt’s Religious Etchings includes 24 prints, selected from the Gallery’s collection of 331 prints by the Dutch master.

Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits represents the first time that these 17 half-length portraits of religious figures painted in the late 1650s and early 1660s—a time of great personal turmoil for the artist—have been brought together from public and private collections in the United States and Europe. This will be an important opportunity to explore compelling questions about their creation and purpose, as well as their relationships to each other, and to Rembrandt’s life and career.

Rembrandt’s Religious Etchings includes prints from two series, one devoted to the childhood of Christ and one with scenes from Christ’s life and resurrection. Rembrandt’s interest in New Testament series in the 1650s may shed light on questions surrounding the relationship of the late religious oil portraits as a series. The etchings are divided into four subject areas: Christ's Childhood; Death and Resurrection; Preaching, Teaching, Praying; and Old Testament.

Throughout his long and extraordinarily productive career, but particularly during the 1650s, Rembrandt turned repeatedly to the Bible as a source of inspiration for his etchings. They depict scenes from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, as well as stories found in the New Testament, particularly those centered on the life of Christ. 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.

Two of the most remarkable prints in this installation are Christ Presented to the People (1655), and The Three Crosses (1653). The emotional impact of these two large-scale prints is largely due to the powerful contrasts of light and dark that Rembrandt was able to achieve through drypoint.

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