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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
(Leiden 1606-1669 Amsterdam)

“The raising of Lazarus: small plate”

etching, with touches of drypoint, trimmed to the platemark all around
150 x 114 mm
signed and dated (l.l.) Rembrandt f.1642
More info

Bartsch 72; Seidlitz 72; Hind 198; White-Boon 72, ‘The New Hollstein’ E. Hinterding, J. Rutgers, G. Luijten, 2013, no.206, 1st state (of II).
Plate still in existence at Boston Museum of Fine Arts – with Nowell-Usticke (1967): C2

Notes

Printed prior to the addition of the strong diagonal shading to the forehead of Lazarus.
In excellent condition, printed on a sheet with thread margins on all four sides.

In the evangelist John’s account of Jesus’ miraculous raising of his friend Lazarus from
the dead (John 11:1-44), Christ explains to Lazarus’s sister, Martha, the broader
significance of the miracle before he performs it: through belief in him, the son of God,
one shall achieve salvation and eternal life. He says, “I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” and, “whosoever liveth
and believeth in me shall never die.” John tells us that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and
their brother Lazarus, followers of Christ residing in Bethany near Jerusalem, and that he
wept for Lazarus. Christ’s resurrection of Lazarus from the dead was one of his most
dramatic miracles and we are told that many witnesses to the event were converted to
belief in him. It was also one of Jesus’ public acts that most seriously alarmed the
reigning religious authorities and led to Christ’s subsequent arrest, trial and crucifixion.

Rembrandt had illustrated the miracle in a painting of about 1630-31 and in a related
large, highly finished etching (Bartsch 73), which he had labored over and taken through
many states. Both of these interpretations of the story involved a dark cavelike tomb and
highly melodramatic gestures, with Christ’s arm raised in command as he cries out
“Lazarus, come forth.” Rembrandt’s conception in this small etching of 1642 is much
simpler. He locates the miracle out of doors in a landscape flooded with daylight. John’s
text tells us regarding the grave only that “It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.” Here
the stone slab has been moved aside. Rembrandt’s understated 1642 interpretation of the
subject seems to suggest that for Christ all things are simple, that a miracle is just another
everyday event. Christ’s gestures and those of the spectators, Mary and Martha and their
comforters, are extremely restrained. Lazarus opens his eyes and his mouth gapes with
surprise, a wholly different effect than the eerie corpse magnetically drawn upward by
Christ’s gesture in the earlier painting and print.

The emphasis on landscape, albeit highly imaginary and grottolike, is not surprising
because Rembrandt’s first dated landscape prints had been etched in the previous year,
1641. The blank white paper of the large rockface behind the diminutive figure of the
resurrected man effectively suggests Lazarus’s return to the radiant light of day and
enables us to better focus on his head and shoulders still wrapped in their grave clothes

Provenance

Heinrich Füssli & Cie (Lugt 1008);
From a private American Collection

Condition

A delicate and clear 17th century impression

Literature

Christopher White, Rembrandt as an Etcher, Yale University Press, New Haven & London,
1999, pp. 48-49 (ill.); Clifford S. Ackley, Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter-Draftsman-Etcher, Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston, 2003, no. 129, p. 198 (ill.); Erik Hinterding, Rembrandt Etchings from the Frits Lugt Collection, Thoth Publishers,
Bussum, 2008, no. 58, vol. II p. 65 (ill.); Shelly Perlove & Larry Silver, Rembrandt’s Faith: Church and Temple in the Dutch Golden Age,
The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009, fig. 169, p. 275 (ill.).

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