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Descent from the Cross by Torchlight

17th century
20.7 cm x 16.3 cm (8 1/8 in. x 6 7/16 in.)

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (aka Rembrandt) (Leiden, The Netherlands, 1606 - 1669, Amsterdam) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, Dutch
Medium and Support: Etching and drypoint on heavy Japanese paper
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase in honor of Jonathan Bober's tenth anniversary as Curator of Prints and Drawings through the generosity of David Armstrong, Carolyn Bullard, Dr. and Mrs. Paul Burns, George and Jo Anne Christian, Marian Davis, Susan Garwood, M.K. Hage, Jr., Helen Lea, John A. Robertson, Helmut and Petra Rumbler, Susan Thomas, Elgin W. Ware, Jr., Gerturde Weber, Stephen and Julia Wilkinson, Dave and Reba Williams, an anonymous donor, and members of the Print Study Group1998*
Accession Number: 1998.72

Iconographically unprecedented, this print combines a traditional Deposition with the Lamentation as it prefigures the Entombment. Unparalleled in its evocation of the tragedy of these events, it eliminates any rhetoric, indeed suppresses any obvious reactions and even obscures the ostensible focus, Christ's slack body. Instead, an original and universally affecting mood is set by the overwhelming shadow, the glow of a single torch, and the tenderness of a humble cast. The print is one of Rembrandt's greatest achievements as a printmaker. This impression is printed on the warm toned and absorbent Japanese paper that the artist favored for the first pulls of his late prints. It is exceptionally rich with ink from both the fugitive work in drypoint and the film of ink left across most of the plate by a deliberately incomplete wiping. This impression is also in extraordinary condition, with no disturbance of the surface or scuffing in the shadows. With a second, later 17th-century printing on standard antique laid paper (acquired in 1961), it also forms the most telling comparison of impressions in the entire collection.

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