Museum press release, 25 May 2005
The Amsterdam Historical Museum owns a small but surprisingly good collection of Rembrandt’s work, including drawings, etchings and one renowned painting, Dr. Deijman’s Anatomy Lesson of 1656. As its contribution to the fourth-centenary festivities for Rembrandt’s birth, the Museum is organizing a special exhibition of this outstanding collection. The subjects of the drawings and etchings show Rembrandt as a versatile artist, equally at home with landscapes, tronies (heads for history paintings), portraits and biblical or mythological scenes. Moreover his techniques were just as varied, including charcoal, pen and brush, and dry-point and burin etching.
Most of the Rembrandts on paper in the Amsterdam Historical Museum are from the collection of Carel Josef Fodor, bequeathed to the city of Amsterdam on his decease in 1860. Most of the etchings show hardly any wear, as though they had been literally kept in the dark since they came from the press, until the right moment came to reveal them. The collector’s marks added to the sheets by previous owners tell a unique story of collectors’ enthusiasm for Rembrandt’s work and how it circulated.
The small drawing that shows the original composition of Dr. Deijman’s Anatomy Lesson, forms a graphic link with this painting that has only survived as a fragment since a fire of 1723. The famous painting, once described by Simon Levie as a ‘moving relic of great quality’, is in every sense the focal point of the AHM’s Rembrandt collection. Not only does it date from the year that the artist was forced to acknowledge his bankruptcy, it also shows how Rembrandt was able once again to display his mastery of the traditional genre of group portraits of surgeons.
As for the collection of etchings it can confidently be said that they have never been seen in living memory. The same goes for the 15 drawings that are in an outstanding condition, partly as a result.
Rembrandt puur / The essence of Rembrandt
Norbert Middelkoop and Jaco Rutgers
Booklet accompanying an exhibition held in 2006 in Amsterdam (Amsterdams Historisch Museum)
Amsterdam (Amsterdams Historisch Museum) 2006