Christ at Emmaus: The Smaller Plate

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Christ at Emmaus: The Smaller Plate
etching
1634

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.

1634

Original etching and drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper

Signed and dated in the plate lower center Rembrandt f. 1634.

A strong, dark 17th century/lifetime impression of Bartsch and New Hollstein’s only state, Usticke’s first state of two of this rare etching (characterized by G.W. Nowell-Usticke in his 1967 catalogue Rembrandt’s Etchings: States and Values as “a scarce plate”, and assigned his scarcity rating of “R+” [75 to 125 impressions extant in that year]), printed prior to the appearance of the very fine verticals below the dog’s chest, the acid spots in the lower left corner printing strongly.

Catalog: Bartsch 88; Hind 121; Biorklund-Barnard 34-K; Usticke 88 i/ii; New Hollstein 129.

On Easter Sunday, the third day after his death, Christ rose from the grave.  He remained on earth until Pentecost before returning to God the Father.  Finding two of his disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, he joined them.  They spoke to him, but did not recognize him.  Only when they sat down to eat in Emmaus and Christ broke bread for them to eat were their eyes opened (Luke 24:13-31).
This etching is the first of the two versions of “Christ at Emmaus” (also known as “The Supper at Emmaus”) which Rembrandt etched twenty years apart.  The Apostle Luke relates how, after Christ’s miraculous resurrection from the dead and the discovery of his empty tomb, he joined two of his disciples who were traveling to the village of Emmaus outside Jerusalem, but they did not recognize him.  As night fell, the disciples invited the stranger to stay with them at an inn.  During their shared meal, as Christ broke bread, they experienced a flash of sudden recognition, but he shortly thereafter “vanished out of their sight.”
The etching is anecdotal and informal in conception, almost a vignette from everyday life.  At left a traveller’s stick and satchel lie on the floor and at right a mangy, undernourished dog begs for scraps from the table, while one of the desciples slices meat.  In the shadows of the background a servant or innkeeper can just be made out under heavy shading.  There is a sence of action interrupted: Christ grasps the loaf of bread vigorously, and, in an explosive burst of light, reveals himself to his followers’ startled eyes.  The patterns of light and shadow are stark and dramatic in their contrasts.  However, inspite of the homely details associated with the real world, a mood of mystic revelation was Rembrandt’s intent, presenting Christ as a spiritual being about to vanish away from his followers’ sight.

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