Self-Portrait (?) with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Self-Portrait (?) with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.


Original etching printed in black ink on laid paper

Signed and dated in the plate lower right Rembrandt / f. 1634.

A superb 17th century/lifetime impression of Bartsch, Hind, Biorklund-Barnard and New Hollstein’s third and final state, Usticke’s third state of four (characterized by G.W. Nowell-Usticke in his 1967 catalogue Rembrandt’s Etchings: States and Values as “an uncommon attractive portrait”), printed after the plate was cut down from a rectangle to an oval, and after the removal of the angular projections at the four corners that appear in the second state. 

Catalog: Bartsch 23 iii/iii; Hind 110 iii/iii; Biorklund-Barnard 34-B iii/iii; Usticke 23 iii/iv; New Hollstein 135 iii/iii.

The title of this self-portrait etching suggests more to the composition than is seen in later states.  The portrait of a figure in the costume of a grand Oriental soldier was trimmed down from a square to an oval, eliminating the hilt of the upright sword on which the left hand is propped.  Not all have agreed that the etching is indeed a self-portrait of the artist at a transitional point in his career.  In 1634 Rembrandt was on the brink of recognition and success.  An air of confidence is imparted in the attitude and expression of the figure in this etching.  The presence of a feather in the cap indicates a new personal flair.  This can also be seen in the cascading ringlets in which the figure wears his hair along with the sportingly trimmed moustache and goatee.  The imperiousness of the pose with right hand on hip is accentuated by the cavalier’s chest plate.  Some scholars have postulated that this is not a self-portrait but a portrait of a military personage such as Admiral Philip von Dorp, Adolf van Cleve or Joris de Caullery.  Other authors, however, continue to believe that we are seeing Rembrandt here, albeit in a freely adapted and adorned likeness, and that point of view is still the most accepted nowadays.