Etching: 9,7 x 8,4 cm
signed and dated upper left: ‘Rembrandt | f. 1637’
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As one of the towering figures in the history of art, Rembrandt, a miller’s son from the university town of Leiden, was an artist of unmatched genius. Equally gifted as a painter, printmaker, and draftsman, Rembrandt proved himself to be as skillful at making portraits as he was at creating religious and mythological narratives. His landscapes are just as remarkable as his rare still lifes and subjects detailing everyday life.
Widely recognized as the greatest practitioner of the etching technique in the history of art, Rembrandt created 300 prints that constitute a body of work unparalleled in richness and beauty. 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.
Painted and printed portraits of theologians occupied an important part of Rembrandt’s repertoire during the 1630s. The sitter here is believed to be Petrus Sylvius (1610–1653), son of Jan Cornelis Sylvius (1564–1638), both of whom were preachers. In 1637, the younger Sylvius was called to minister in Sloten, Friesland, in the northern Netherlands. Assuming the sitter’s identity is correct, the etching was likely made before his departure as a memento for the friends and relatives he would leave behind in Amsterdam.
Rembrandt had already etched the elder preacher’s portrait in 1633 and painted portrait pendants of him and his wife, Aaltje van Uylenburgh, who was Saskia’s cousin. When Saskia was orphaned at age 12, Jan Cornelis became her guardian. Aaltje’s brother Hendrick van Uylenburgh (c. 1587–1661) was an important art dealer who was instrumental in launching Rembrandt’s Amsterdam career. Given Rembrandt’s profound friendship with the family, it is not surprising that he produced portraits of its various members.
Bartsch 268; White/Boon 268;
The New Hollstein Dutch 164 second state of II ;
Nowell-Usticke: R : ‘A desirable small portrait’
Plate not in existence
A 17th century impression of the second and final state, with small margins on three sides, trimmed on the platemark at lower edge.