As Bevers has described in his fundamental 2011 article clarifying the artistic personality of this previously somewhat shadowy figure from the Rembrandt circle, an important and very distinctive group of drawings by the artist consists of large-scale biblical scenes such as this, executed in a very characteristic combination of pen and brown ink, handled in a calligraphic yet rather engraver-like way, overlaid with broad, dark washes of grey and black.1 The four definitive drawings from this group, which Bevers believes were probably executed while Victors was still in Rembrandt's studio, circa 1635-40, are (or were) in Dresden.2 Also in Dresden are several fine, large drawings by Jan Lievens, executed in a very similar manner, and indeed, in terms of drawing technique it is at least as much to works in this manner by Lievens, dating from the end of the artist's Leiden period, around 1625-28, as it is to the drawings of Rembrandt that Victors seems to have looked for inspiration in drawings such as the present example.3 That said, the composition is very much rooted in Rembrandt, and as Peter Schatborn, who also endorses the attribution, has kindly pointed out, is reminiscent of that of Rembrandt's 1638 painting The Wedding of Samson, once more in Dresden.4
The subject depicted here appears to be the moment when, following the death of his own son as a result of one of the biblical plagues, Pharaoh decides to relent and permit the Jews to leave Egypt, but it has also been identified as Herod Predicting the Coming of the Messiah. Another, apparently weaker, version of this drawing is in Munich, and a third is in Darmstadt.5
1. H. Bevers, 'The Drawings of Jan Victors: The Shaping of an Oeuvre of a Rembrandt Pupil,' Master Drawings, vol. XLIX, no. 3 (Autumn 2011), pp. 371-388, esp. pp. 375-8
2. Inv. nos. C 1472, C 1474, C 1968-297, C 1495 (this last lost during World War II); Bevers, op. cit., p. 376, figs. 8-9; W. Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, vol. 10, New York 1992, nos. 2326xx, 2328xx, 2328axx, 2328bxx
3. For a discussion of this group by Lievens, see G. Rubinstein, 'Brief Encounter: The Early Drawings of Jan Lievens and Their Relationship with those of Rembrandt,' Master Drawings, vol. XLIX, no. 3 (Autumn 2011), pp. 364-7
4. E. van de Wetering, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. VI, The Hague 2015, pl. 160
5. See Wegner, loc. cit.
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