Old Master Prints

Old Master Prints

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 36. The Three Trees (B., Holl. 212; New Holl. 214; H. 205).

Property from the Estate of George Embiricos

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

The Three Trees (B., Holl. 212; New Holl. 214; H. 205)

Lot Closed

December 8, 02:31 PM GMT


200,000 - 300,000 GBP

Lot Details


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

1606 - 1669

The Three Trees (B., Holl. 212; New Holl. 214; H. 205)

Etching with engraving and drypoint, 1643, a very fine, rich and atmospheric impression of this important subject, New Hollstein’s only state, printing with intense contrasts and much burr, the sulphur tinting very strong, on laid paper with a Foolscap with five-pointed Collar watermark, framed

plate: 208 by 280mm 8¼ by 11in

sheet: 210 by 282mm 8¼ by 11⅛in

The present impression compares well with the Salting, Slade and Cracherode impressions in the British Museum.

Rembrandt’s The Three Trees is the largest and most celebrated of the artist’s printed landscapes. Created in 1643, just one year after the completion of his iconic masterpiece The Night Watch, this much sought-after graphic work features a remarkable combination of etching, engraving, and drypoint, exemplifying Rembrandt’s incredible mastery of an array of printing techniques. 

Few printed landscapes feature the same degree of technical sophistication as The Three Trees. The work’s complex interlacing of rhythmic etched lines showcases Rembrandt's unmatched virtuosity in the medium. These etched areas are complemented by heightened engraved lines in the foreground, which add contrast and depth, emphasising the sense of three dimensionality. There is also evidence of delicate drypoint, most notably in the atmospheric lines that comprise the storm clouds framing the scene. By combining these three printing techniques Rembrandt expertly balanced shadow and light, creating both anxiety and tranquility within the scene, wherein an impending storm threatens to disrupt the calm of the pastoral landscape. 

While The Three Trees may initially appear to present a simple view of the Dutch countryside, this straightforward reading of the work fails to recognize a number of important religious, political, and literary motifs. The prevailing reading of The Three Trees argues that the trio of trees is an allusion to the three crosses present at Christ’s crucifixion. By presenting the trees in this way, Rembrandt is able to conceal religious messaging in the landscape by veiling it within natural imagery. In addition to this religious reading, other scholars have argued that the trees hold nationalistic importance, as their fortitude in the face of the advancing storm symbolizes Dutch strength in the battle for independence from Spanish rule. Other smaller details within the scene, such as the fishing couple at the lower left and hidden lovers in the foreground of the image, are included for their literary importance as these would have been familiar references to pastoral literature amongst Rembrandt’s contemporary audience. 

The technical and iconographical complexity of The Three Trees reveals Rembrandt’s unmatched ability to convey meaning within an aesthetically pleasing view of everyday life. Imbued with religious and nationalistic connotations, this print arguably paved the way for generations of romantic landscape artists, including J.M.W. Turner and John Constable.