Landscape with a Cottage and a Large Tree

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Landscape with a Cottage and a Large Tree
etching
1641

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.

1641

Original etching printed in black ink on laid paper.

Signed and dated in the plate lower right Rembrandt f 1641.

A superb 17th century/lifetime impression of Bartsch, Usticke and New Hollstein’s only state, Schneider’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 rather uncommon long landscape,” and assigned his scarcity rating of “R-” [75-125 impressions extant in that year]), printed prior to the addition of any sulphur tinting to the tree and cottage (Schneider).

Catalog: Bartsch 226; Hind 178; Birorlund-Barnard 41-B; Usticke 226; New Hollstein198; Schneider (NGA) 5 i/ii.

This view of a picturesque, tumbledown cottage is an imagimary distillation or capriccio of the countryside around Amsterdam. However, a drawing in the Louvre of around 1639, “Cottage with a cart and road” (Benesch 797), seems to have provided the starting-point for the left half of the composition.

The etching bears the date 1641, the earliest to be found on Rembrandt’s landscape prints. Yet the plate is executed with supreme assurance. In a detailed image Rembrandt successfully suggests a rich variety of textures, including thatch, foliage and water, elaborating them to a high degree of finish. Particular subtlety has been derived from immersing the plate more than once in the acid to etch the lines more deeply in the foreground than the distance, where the forms dissolve in the atmosphere.

Rembrandt’s characteristic inclusion of incidental detail, for example the children by the door, the abandoned milk pail and yoke lying on the old cartwheel, and the disrepair of the thatch, have led to the suggestion that the plate has some allegorical meaning. While the all-pervasive themes of vanitas that lie behind so many seventeenth-century images may well have informed Rembrandt’s thinking, it is difficult to go further than this in analyzing his intentions. He was probably preoccupied above all by questions of representational skill and compositional harmony, the qualities that still attract interest in his work.