CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rembrandt op papier

Rembrandt on paper Exhibition: 15 September 1999 - 9 January 2000

From the museum website, 7 February 2009

Theo Laurentius’ choice from the collections of the print room of Leiden University and Museum Bredius in The Hague.

Abraham Bredius is without a doubt one of the greatest early Rembrandt experts. As early as 1935 he drew up a catalogue of Rembrandt’s oil paintings. He was also a private collector of Rembrandt’s work. He bequeathed two important pieces, Saul and David and Two Negroes to the Mauritshuis, the museum of which he was a director in the beginning of the 20th century. In his own collection, now the Bredius Museum, remained the Bust of Christ, a painting whose authenticity is now under discussion; furthermore he collected some especially fine Rembrandt drawings.

The exhibition Rembrandt by Himself in the Mauritshuis gave occasion to Rembrandt on Paper. In the Mauritshuis the etched self-portraits are exhibited, in the Bredius Museum all the topics from Rembrandt’s oeuvre of etchings will be represented: Old and New Testament, beggars, portraits, characters, landscapes, nudes and allegories. The Rembrandt drawings from the Bredius collection will also be exhibited.

To compile the exhibition Rembrandt specialist Theo Laurentius was enlisted. He obtained permission to make a selection from the collection of ‘Het Prentenkabinet van de Universiteit Leiden’ and some additional loans from private collectors. The compilation also reflects the results of technical research recently performed on the etchings from Leiden.

Rembrandt’s etchings were already very popular during his lifetime, and his prints were collected even more eagerly than his oil paintings. Rembrandt began with this technique at an early age and continued until about 1660. From that moment on until his death in 1669 we know only a single etching, a commissioned portrait. Altogether he produced some 290 etchings. Most of the copperplates had already disappeared when he died, but about 100 plates survived Rembrandt. These plates were reprinted very often after his death, until they became extremely worn. As a result the number of late prints is a multiple of the 15,000 – 20,000 copies which were printed during Rembrandt’s lifetime.
In the past 15 years Theo Laurentius has developed a method to distinguish the original printings by Rembrandt from the late editions. It turned out to be possible to determine which kinds of paper Rembrandt had in stock from year to year. Most of the etchings which he printed personally can now be dated to the exact year.

The most important item in the exhibition is the so-called Hundred guilder print, officially called Christ healing the sick. Of this etching only contemporary prints on Japanese paper were known until recently. The copy in this exhibition however is one of only five prints extant today which Rembrandt is known to have made on West European paper. The paper has the watermark ‘Peace Rider’ which indicates a date of origin close to the Peace of Münster of 1648. Possibly the etching was produced to mark that occasion.