THE GREAT JEWISH BRIDE

Rembrandt Van Rijn
THE GREAT JEWISH BRIDE
etching
1635

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.

1635

Original etching, engraving and drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper bearing a portion of the “Strasbourg Lily” watermark (Ash/Fletcher 36).

Signed and dated in the plate lower left (in reverse) R / 1635.

A superb, richly printed 17th century/lifetime impression of Bartsch and New Hollstein’s fifth and final state, Usticke’s third state of three (characterized by G.W. Nowell-Usticke in his 1967 catalogue Rembrandt’s Etchings: States and Values as “A rather uncommon portrait, desirable”), printed after the addition of horizontal lines upper right indicating stonework.

Catalog: Bartsch 340 v/v; Hind 127; Biorklund-Barnard 35-C; Usticke 340 iii/iii; New Hollstein 154 v/v.

The title of this etching is a traditional one, based on an eighteenth-century identification of the subject as the daughter of the Jewish physician Ephraim Bonus (see Bartsch 278).  In fact, the woman bears a general resemblence to Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, to whom he was betrothed in 1633 and whom he married in the following year.  From 1633, her physiognomy provided him with a model of a female type that came to dominate his portrayal of women. 
This portrayal shows the woman in rich costume, seated in an armchair before a table or shelf laden with books.  She holds a scroll, and her expression is composed, even steadfast.  The architectural background enhances the monumentality of the composition. 
No definite identification of the subject has been made, though a number of interpretations have been offered: that the woman is a figure from the stage; Minerva; Esther holding the decree on her people (clad in her “royal apparel” before approaching King Ahasuerus in order to expose Haman’s treacherous intentions, the biblical episode preceding the “Trimph of Mordechai” B. 40); a Jewish bride holding the marriage contract, her hair ritualistically let down and wearing a string of pearls around her head as was the custom during the time in Holland among Jewish women about to be married; or a sibyl.

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