From the museum press release, 28 September 2012
This autumn and winter the Rembrandt House Museum is exhibiting a wide selection of the Rembrandt etchings in its collection. The museum has an almost complete collection of Rembrandt’s prints – 260 of the 290 or so etchings the artist made – as well as a number of original etching plates. The museum will also be presenting a selection of its most recent additions to the print collection and an unusual painting.
In previous centuries Rembrandt’s reputation was based primarily on his magnificent prints. His paintings were much less well-known than his etchings, which were already sought-after collectors’ items during his lifetime and were widely distributed. Rembrandt made many of these etchings in his house in Jodenbreestraat. The etchings that can be seen here now have returned to the place where they were created, often after quite extensive travels.
The Rembrandt House Museum’s collection policy focuses on acquiring work by Rembrandt, his pupils and followers, prints by his predecessors, and later reproductive prints after paintings by Rembrandt. The museum also buys work by contemporary artists, particularly those who base their art on Rembrandt’s work.
Prints by Rembrandt and His Pupils
Although the museum has very a sizeable collection of Rembrandt’s etchings, it is not complete. Most of the missing prints are extremely rare and consequently very expensive. Nevertheless, in 2009 the museum was able to purchase an etched self-portrait by Rembrandt dated 1631, and in May 2012 added the etching, the Portrait of Saskia as St Catherine of 1638, to its collection. Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr, can be identified from her attribute – the wheel of her martyrdom on the right in the etching. As well as these prints the museum acquired two etchings by Ferdinand Bol (1616 -1680), one of the most successful painters Rembrandt ever trained. With an oeuvre of some twenty etchings, he was Rembrandt’s most prolific pupil in the technique.
A Painting by Rombout Uylenburgh
Joash Anointed King by the High Priest Jehoiada (II Kings 11:12) by Rombout Uylenburgh (c. 1580/5 – 1627/8) was a very exciting purchase. The relatively unknown painter Rombout was the brother of the art dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh, with whom Rembrandt collaborated between 1631 and 1635. This was a crucial period in the development of Rembrandt’s career. It was also when he must have met Hendrick’s cousin Saskia, whom he married in 1634. The painting is the same size and in the same technique (grisaille) as the work by Uylenburgh that the museum purchased in 2005: Athalia Driven from the Temple (II Kings 11, 13-15). The two paintings show successive scenes from the same Bible story and clearly belong together. The museum’s latest acquisition means that the paintings have at last been reunited.
Prints as Models for Rembrandt & Reproductive Prints
Prints that served Rembrandt as models for his own work present an opportunity to demonstrate the context in which his work was created. Rembrandt used The Pancake Woman by Jan van de Velde the Younger (c. 1593-1641), for instance, as the model for his own etched portrayal of a woman making pancakes. The engraving by Reinier Persijn (c. 1615-1668), to a design by Joachim von Sandrart after Raphael’s portrait of the Italian writer Baldassare Castiglione (1475- 1528) provides an insight into how Rembrandt was inspired by Raphael’s painting for his own self-portraits. The museum also acquired a splendid copy of Charles Howard Hodges’s (1764-1837) reproductive print of 1802 after Rembrandt’s 1634 painting The Shipbuilder and His Wife: Portrait of Jan Rijcksen and Griet Jans. Reproductive prints can provide a great deal of information about original paintings and also indicate the extent of the interest in Rembrandt’s inventions in later centuries.
Prints by Contemporary Artists
In recent years the museum has also acquired work by contemporary artists, including two drawings by Kurt Löb (b. 1926), which were inspired by the double murder of the singer Jean-Louis Pisuisse and his wife Jenny Gilliams in 1927. A former lover of Jenny’s shot and killed the couple in the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam and then committed suicide. This brutal crime passionel took place at the foot of the statue of Rembrandt designed by Louis Royer (1793-1868), which has adorned the square since 1852. The museum recently bought a mid-nineteenth century bronze scale model of this statue.