Abraham Francen, Apothecary

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Abraham Francen, Apothecary
etching & drypoint
c. 1657

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching & drypoint print.

c. 1657

Original etching, drypoint and burin printed in black ink on stiff wove paper.

A fine 18th century impression of Bartsch’s tenth and final state, Usticke’s seventh state of nine, New Hollstein’s eleventh state of twelve, printed after the addition of the horizontal shading across the upper part of the trees through the window, but before the crosshatching was added to the left cheek of the sitter to cover the slipt stroke there.

Catalog: Bartsch 273 x/x; Hind 291; Biorklund-Barnard 57-2; Usticke 273 vii/ix; New Hollstein 301 xi/xii.

6 3/16 x 8 3/16 inches

Sheet Size: 6 7/16 x 8 7/16 inches

Abraham Francen (born in 1613), an apothecary and art collector, was a good friend of Rembrandt: he swore to affidavits for him on a number of occasions, stood by him in times of financial crisis and, after Rembrandt’s death, accepted the guardianship of the artist’s daughter Cornelia.

Jan Six, in his inventory of Rembrandt’s studio at the time of his death, connected this etching with a document of 1655 in which Rembrandt was contracted to etch a portrait of Otto van Cattenburgh. The contract stipulated that the portrait had to be “of the same quality as the portrait of Mr. Jan Six, in the amount of 400 guilders.” Six did not doubt that this etching depicts Abraham Francen, but it was his opinion that it, as the only portrait etching by Rembrandt that came close to the contractual stipulation, must have been the work that resulted from the agreement. Six suggested that Francen took over some of the payments that Rembrandt was required to make, including this etched portrait.

This is Rembrandt’s only oblong portrait etching. By adopting this format, the artist was enabled to show the sitter in his own room, amidst his own possessions. On the table and the wall are a number of works of art, including a triptych of the Crucifixion. The death’s-head can be interpreted as an attribute of an apothecary.