Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 Leiden – Amsterdam 1669
Christ Preaching (“La Petite Tombe”) ca. 1657
etching, engraving, and drypoint on tissue-thin chine; 156 x 207 mm (6 1⁄8 x 8 1⁄8 inches) Bartsch 67, White/Boon only state; Hind 256; New Hollstein 298 first state (of two)
Erik Hinterding, Ger Luijten, and Martin Royalton-Kisch (eds.), Rembrandt the Printmaker, exhibition catalogue, Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam/British Museum, London, 2000–01, no. 68 Clifford S. Ackley et al. (eds.), Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Art Institute of Chicago, 2003–04, nos. 136f.
A fine impression in excellent condition; trimmed on or just outside the platemark all round.
In this print Rembrandt revisits the theme of his magnum opus, the so-called Hundred Guilder Print of ca. 1648 (Bartsch 74). This smaller, condensed version is one of the artist’s most bal- anced compositions. It has a classical serenity that has led scholars to point to the influence of Raphael’s Vatican fresco of Parnassus. Martin Royalton-Kisch notes that in 1652 Rembrandt sketched a version of Raphael’s work, well-known at the time through reproductive prints, in the album amicorum of his friend Jan Six. After establishing the overall scheme with a straightforward combination of horizontal and vertical elements, the artist enriched the details and atmospheric effects by going over the etched plate with a drypoint needle, thereby creating a lively “dialogue between clean etched lines and velvety drypoint lines fringed with rich burr” (Clifford Ackley).
The Petite Tombe has traditionally been dated to ca. 1652. Based on his watermark research Erik Hinterding now proposes an execution date of ca. 1657 (cf. The New Hollstein: Rembrandt. Text, vol. 2, p. 270). Its somewhat confusing title was introduced by Gersaint in 1751 and later mis- understood as making reference to the “little tomb” on which Christ supposedly stands. In fact, this title refers back to Clement de Jonghe’s inventory where it is listed as “Latombisch plaatjen” (La Tombe’s little plate), a reference to Nicholas La Tombe who might have commissioned the work. Members of the La Tombe family are noted in documents relating to Rembrandt dating to between 1650 and 1658.
A note on the paper :
Rembrandt was keenly interested in the effects created by printing on different surfaces. In addition to European paper and vellum he also experimented with so-called “oriental papers.” The earliest known reference to exotic, non-European papers dates from a letter by the English traveler Edward Brown (1644– 1708) of September 5, 1668, in which he described some prints by Rembrandt “upon Indian paper.” However, this is only a vague term referring generally to papers “from the Indies” or “imported from the Dutch East India Company.” Gampi, a highly prized Japanese paper that is fairly thick and has a delicate sheen and ivory color, is one of the papers Rembrandt used that has a most clearly established origin. The often tissue-thin grayish-white Chinese paper (traditionally referred to in the literature by its French name chine) used in this impression of the print does not have the luster of the Japanese gampi paper but it was nevertheless prized for its softness and delicacy. It takes the ink clearly and precisely, printing the lines sharply and with good relief. Its softness also meant that it caused less wear to the delicate burr. This must undoubtedly be one reason that the artist often used it for his later prints, the Petite Tombe among them. In their most successful impressions these prints depended on the accents created by the extensive use of the drypoint needle. For the Petite Tombe Rembrandt appears to have employed various different surfaces: The New Hollstein lists 15 impressions on Japan, two on chine, and even one on vellum. (A good overview of the subject of oriental papers can be found in: Jacobus van Breda, “Rembrandt Etchings on Oriental Papers: Papers in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria,” in: Art Bulletin of Victoria, vol. 38, 1997, pp. 25–38.)