[Luke 15: 20-22]
Etching: 15,5 x 13,3 cm
Signed and dated lower centre: Rembrandt f 1636
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During his lifetime, Rembrandt’s extraordinary skills as a printmaker were the main source of his international fame. Unlike his oil paintings, prints travelled light and were relatively cheap. For this reason, they soon became very popular with collectors not only within, but also beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
In this etching, the son has returned home in a wretched state from travels in which he has wasted his inheritance and fallen into poverty and despair. He kneels before his father in repentance, wishing for forgiveness and the position of a servant in his father’s household, having realized that even his father’s servants had a better station in life than he. His father receives him with a tender gesture and welcomes him as his own son. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. In the biblical parable the eldest son objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son:
But he answered his father, “Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” —Luke 15:29–30, World English Bible
The father explains, “But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).
Rembrandt was moved by the parable, and he made a variety of drawings, etchings, and paintings on the theme that spanned decades, beginning with this 1636 etching.
Bartsch 9; Hind 147;
The New Hollstein Dutch 159 first state of III ;
Nowell-Usticke: C2, Plate in existence at Museum Rembrandthuis.
A great impression of the first state of three, with narrow to thread margins, trimmed to the platemark in places.