Lot 49
  • 49

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

Estimate
200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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Description

  • Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
  • Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves: 'The Three Crosses' (B., Holl. 78; New Holl. 274; H. 270)
  • drypoint and engraving
  • plate: 385 by 450mm 15 1/8 by 17 3/4 in
  • sheet: 389 by 454mm 15 1/4 by 17 7/8 in
Drypoint, 1653, a fine impression of the fourth state (of five), New Hollstein's fourth state (of five), printing with rich burr, creating a dramatic and tonal contrast

Provenance

Ex coll. Adalbert von Lanna (L. 2773) 

Condition

With narrow margins, in good condition, apart from a diagonal repaired tear across lower right corner, pale fox marks on the verso occasionally visible recto in the upper portion of the sheet, a soft central vertical fold only visible verso, three soft diagonal creases at upper left, a few nicks and a tiny tear at the lower margin (not affecting the image), unframed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

Catalogue Note

'There were a few times when Rembrandt felt the urge to make a print with the impact of a painting, and the Three Crosses of 1653 belongs unequivocally to this category.'

- Erik Hinterding, Ger Luijten and Martin Royalton-Kisch, Rembrandt the Printmaker (London, 2000), p. 301.

The Three Crosses has long been considered one of the masterpieces of printmaking.  Working entirely in drypoint, Rembrandt has captured the mystery and terror of the subject through simple but powerful lines.  The individual strokes resemble those of a reed pen, but the overall effect is one that could only have been achieved through a printed medium.

In the earlier states (for example, fig. 1), Rembrandt depicted the scene as described in Luke 23:47, showing the kneeling centurion at the foot of the cross after Christ has given up the ghost.  The principal mourners are at the right background and a crowd of onlookers are massed in the left foreground.

In about 1658 Rembrandt dramatically reworked The Three Crosses, creating a simpler, more severe work.  The differences between the third and fourth state are so great that until the late 18th century they were thought to be printed from two different plates.  The major changes include the elimination of a croup at the left and the addition of a figure on horseback, facing into the composition.  The headdress and pose of the rider are modelled on a medallion by Antonio Pisanello datable to around 1440 (fig. 2).  Numerous bystanders on Golgotha are replaced with other figures, and Rembrandt's use of sharp and powerful diagonal lines that darken the passages on the left and right create the illusion of two dark curtains drawing in on the figure of Christ.  He is the focal point of the print: His outline is simplified and His gaze is turned upward,  This is an earlier point in the drama than in previous states.  Christ is not yet dead but looks up and cries 'My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?'

Realising the fragility of the drypoint technique, Rembrandt knowingly printed a small edition and took as great care in the printing as he did in the creation of the plate.  He experimented with different inking effects to achieve different tonalities and moods, so that each impression is truly unique.

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