This summer the Rembrandt House Museum is staging the exhibition Printed in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Printmakers and Publishers in the Golden Age. More than a hundred works, loans from many institutions in the Netherlands and Belgium, will give an overview of Amsterdam print output in the seventeenth century. At that time the city was developing into one of the most important production centres for prints in Europe, and in Rembrandt it gave the world one of the greatest printmakers of all time. The show features prints by Rembrandt, Salomon Saverij and artists whose work was reproduced and published by Cornelis Danckerts and his sons, among them Reinier Nooms (called Zeeman) and Nicolaes Berchem. There are also numerous splendid sheets from the Atlas Blaeu, prints by Jan Muller and Jan Saenredam, and reproductive prints after Rubens, Rembrandt and Jacob Jordaens.
The print publishers in Amsterdam made prints themselves, but for the most part they gave commissions to engravers and etchers, whose work they marketed. They also bought up copper plates from famous printmakers and published them with their own firm’s name. They were often involved in fierce competition to get the most famous or the latest prints for their lists. Remarkably, there has never before been an exhibition dedicated solely to this subject. A book containing four lavishly illustrated essays which also include countless new insights and previously unpublished archive material is being produced to accompany the exhibition.
The exhibition centres on two printmakers and one print publishing firm. There will be a representative selection of work by Salomon Saverij, who was a productive printmaker and often worked for publishers. The second printmaker is Rembrandt, universally regarded as an innovative etcher. Rembrandt kept the production process in his own hands as far as possible by printing and publishing his prints himself. For decades the firm run by Cornelis Danckerts and his sons Dancker and Justus Danckerts was the market leader in print publishing. They made prints themselves and had them produced in their workshop, gave commissions to artists and built up a stock of copper plates by famous printmakers. They were active in the art trade abroad and contributed to the dissemination of seventeenth-century Dutch prints.
The project is an initiative of Elmer Kolfin, lecturer in Art History at the University of Amsterdam. The exhibition Printed in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Printmakers and Publishers in the Golden Age and the publication (in Dutch only) are dedicated to Professor Eric Jan Sluijter who retired as professor of Art History at the University of Amsterdam on 15 April 2011. Sluijter is an eminent art historian who in 2006 wrote the standard work Rembrandt and the Female Nude. He also distinguished himself in museum terms with high-profile exhibitions. Sluijter’s on-going research programme into the economic and artistic rivalry in the Amsterdam art market was a direct source of inspiration for the curators of Printed in Amsterdam.