The Descent from the Cross: A Sketch

Rembrandt Van Rijn
The Descent from the Cross: A Sketch
etching & drypoint

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching & drypoint print.


Original etching and drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper

Signed and dated in the plate lower right Rembrandt f. 1642.

A superb impression of Bartsch, Hind, Biorklund-Barnard, Usticke and New Hollstein’s only state of this rare etching (characterized by G.W. Nowell-Usticke in his 1967 catalogue Rembrandt’s Etchings: States and Values, as “A rather rare sketch plate”, and assigned his scarcity rating of “RR” [50-75 impressions extant in that year]), showing touches of rich burr. 

Catalog: Bartsch 82; Hind 199; Biorklund-Barnard 42-C; Usticke 82; New Hollstein 204.

6 x 4 5/8 inches 

In this etching of 1642 Rembrandt chose interpretation of the descent from the cross.  Here the cross is represented frontally with a man on a ladder who is removing the nails, while another keeps firm hold of the cloth with which the body of Christ will be lowered.  The composition is built up of etched lines, with some details that have been executed in drypoint, such as the crown of thorns on the dish on the right.  Clifford Ackley recently linked the work to a number of prints from the 1640’s, which the artist had only bitten lightly.  With Rembrandt the dividing line between lightly etchedand unfinished is not always clear, but the present print would appear to come into the latter category.  Some figures, such as the man on stepladder, are merely showing the outlines and others are only done in a more rudimentary fashion.  Only the group in the lower left corner appears to be worked out to any degree.  In the light of this it is remarkable that Rembrandt signed the copper plate.  Evidently he found the result good enough for the market.