The Good Samaritan

Rembrandt Van Rijn
The Good Samaritan
etching
1633

An original Rembrandt Van Rijn etching.

1633

Original etching printed in black ink on laid paper bearing a portion of an unidentified watermark.

Signed and dated in the plate in the title margin below the image Rembrandt inventor et fecit 1633.

A 17th century/lifetime impression of Bartsch, Usticke and New Hollstein’s fourth and final state of this rare etching, (characterized by G.W. Nowell-Usticke in his 1967 catalogue Rembrandt’s Etchings: States and Values as “a scarce plate, seldom found in fine condition,” and assigned his scarcity rating of “R+” [75-125 impressions extant in that year]), printed after the plate was reduced in size and the signature and date were added to the title margin below the image (horizontal lines of shading added by another hand to this title margin).

Catalog: Bartsch 90 iv/iv; Hind 101; Biorklund-Barnard 33-A; Usticke 90 iv/iv; New Hollstein 116 iv/iv.

This is the final scene from one of Christ’s parables about charity. A traveller on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho was ambushed by robbers and left for dead. A priest then a Levite passed by; both of them clearly saw the wounded man lying there, but gave him a wide berth. After that a Samaritan came along (traditionally Samaritans did not care much for the Jews), and he, out of compassion for the victim, treated his wounds, put him on his own mount and took him to an inn to recover (Luke 10:30-35).

In the etching the injured man is being lifted from the horse, while the Samaritan pays the innkeeper. This last differs from the Bible story where the innkeeper does not receive the money until the next day.

This etching was highly regarded in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Some years later, however, authors began to suspect the existence of a second hand in the etching. In part this had to do with the dog in the foreground, which was considered so distasteful that only a pupil could have been responsible for it. As recently as 1952, the scholar L. Münz still thought that Rembrandt had executed the etching with the help of a pupil, but since then the master himself has been considered as being solely responsible for the work.

“The Good Samaritan” was singled out by the great German playwright, poet, novelist and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his essay “Rembrandt der Denket” (Rembrandt the Thinker) as powerful proof of Rembrandt’s grasp of human emotions, intellect and physical expression.