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Title: Rembrandt's Etching Technique: An Example
Author: Morse, Peter
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rembrandt's Etching Technique: An Example" ***

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+Contributions from
The Museum of History and Technology:
Paper 61+

+Rembrandt's Etching Technique:
An Example+

_Peter Morse_

[Illustration: FIGURE 1

_Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep._ Etching by Rembrandt,
shown in original size.]

_By Peter Morse_

_Rembrandt's Etching Technique:
An Example_

_A Rembrandt print in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution has
been made the subject of a study of the artist's etching technique. The
author is associate curator, division of graphic arts, in the
Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology._

All footnotes appear at the end of this paper.

Rembrandt's print, _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_,[1]
is a singularly apt example of the variety of etching treatment used by
the artist in his mature period.[2] The print, in black ink, 83 × 174
mm. in size (approximately 3-1/2 × 7 inches), is signed and dated
1650.[3] It shows a peaceful Dutch landscape along the Onderdijk Road on
the south side of the Saint Anthony's Dike, only a short walk from
Rembrandt's home in Amsterdam. The picture is, as usual, the mirror
reversal of the actual scene.[4]

The observer's attention, from his raised position, is first drawn to
the center of the print, attracted by the bright highlights on the trees
and barn, then is snapped abruptly to the left side by the figure of the
woman outlined against the sky. Now the eye moves slowly across the
bottom, noticing the flock of sheep and the shepherd, and is led further
by the soft dark line of the creek bank, to pick up the distant town and
then the cows on the right. Only after completely circling the
composition does one notice the horse, rolling in the grass and joyfully
kicking its feet in the air.

Such artistic command seldom comes spontaneously. In Rembrandt's case,
it is clearly the result of careful preparation, many years of learning
and experience, and hard work in the creation of each picture. Such a
process has produced in this print--one of nine landscapes which mark a
turning point in 1650--a work of stylistic synthesis, which integrates
Rembrandt's previous knowledge and leads on to his later masterpieces.

[Illustration: FIGURE 2

Mirror reversal of _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_.]

In 1650 Rembrandt was evidently in a tranquil state of mind. He was 44
years old. Young Hendrickje Stoffels, who had entered his household in
1645 as a maid, was well settled as housekeeper and mistress. Geertghe
Dircx--who had been the nurse of Rembrandt's son, Titus, since the death
of his wife, Saskia, in 1642--had just been taken to an institution
after a nasty breach of promise suit.[5] Rembrandt's finances were in
good shape; his insolvency was not to come until 1656, after the
international economic crisis of 1653.[6] The artist certainly had the
fullest confidence and experience in his working methods, having already
done close to 250 prints.[7] This state of well-being is reflected in
the fact that of the 27 prints Rembrandt did in the three years,
1650-1652, no fewer than 14 are landscapes of a serene character.[8]
This is an unusually large proportion of a single subject and surely
reflects the artist's state of mind, which helped him to produce this
masterpiece of serenity, humor, and technical virtuosity.

His etching technique can be clearly studied in this print. In summary,
all the evidence shows that Rembrandt here laid a foundation of lines on
his plate with a single etching. He then mantled the sketch with rich
drypoint lines, to give a sensitive chiaroscuro to the finished work.
The integration of etching and drypoint is striking. There are few areas
of this print (except the sky) that do not contain both kinds of line.

Rembrandt evidently had an excellent idea of his design before he ever
touched the needle to the plate. Though he is often admired for his
spontaneity, particularly in his landscapes,[9] this is a misconception.
Benesch lists no fewer than 78 landscape drawings by Rembrandt in the
years 1648-1650,[10] and there were perhaps many more, now lost or
unidentified. For this etching alone, there are at least five likely
preparatory drawings, each giving certain essential features of the
final print. The most interesting is the _Landscape with a Rolling
Horse_.[11] Here we see that the horse, apparently the happiest of
impulsive inspirations, is instead a carefully considered part of the
final design, copied from the drawing previously done on the spot. As
the horse in the drawing is the mirror image of that in the print, we
can feel certain that the drawing came first and not the etching. Two
other drawings[12] (figures 4 and 5) delineate the clump of trees, in
form and placement very similar to the print. A fourth[13] (figure 6) is
a sketch of a hay barn of the type shown in the print, evidently quite
common in the Dutch countryside, and a fifth[14] (figure 7) foreshadows
the scheme of composition used in the print, principally the
relationship of the road and the dark central mass. All these drawings
are the mirror reversal of the print.

[Illustration: FIGURE 3

_Landscape with a rolling horse._ Drawing by Rembrandt. After Benesch,
vol. 6, fig. 1444. (Smithsonian photo 59391, with the permission of
Phaidon Press, Ltd., and the Groningen Museum.)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 4

_A clump of trees._ Drawing by Rembrandt. After Benesch, vol. 4, fig.
1001. (Smithsonian photo 59392, with the permission of Phaidon Press,

[Illustration: FIGURE 5

_Farm building among trees._ Drawing by Rembrandt. (_Photo courtesy of
the Albertina Museum, Vienna._)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 6

_Farmstead with a hay barn._ Drawing by Rembrandt. After Benesch, vol.
6, fig. 1458. (Smithsonian photo 59393, with the permission of Phaidon
Press, Ltd., and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 7

_Farm buildings beside a road with distant farmstead._ Drawing by
Rembrandt. (_Photo courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford._)]

It is very much a modern taste to admire spontaneity more than craft. We
must understand that Rembrandt's work was anything but spontaneous in
execution. The existence of so many drawings prior to this print
certainly suggests that Rembrandt collected his ideas from many sources,
on the spot, but did his finished work in the quiet of his studio, with
his notes ready at hand. He used the sketches as the raw material for a
work of art. Rembrandt said that the only rule that should bind the
artist is nature,[15] but he was certainly not distracted by nature. The
individual genius here lies in assembling many observations from nature
into a work which goes beyond nature and yet appears fresh and natural.

The metal plates he commonly used were of thin, cold-hammered copper, as
shown by extant examples.[16] The hammering had the effect of making the
metal harder than today's rolled copper sheets. This enabled more prints
to be taken from the plate than is possible for a present-day
printmaker. Today, we tend to consider drypoint a very fugitive medium,
because the burr perishes so quickly under the pressure of the printing
press. Rembrandt undoubtedly had fewer inhibitions about drypoint, for
he could expect his harder copper to hold up longer, perhaps for as many
as fifty excellent prints from the same plate. Hammered copper, unlike
the modern rolled variety, is also completely free of grain in the
metal. This enables a drypoint needle to move freely in any direction
without encountering the resistance of a grain. Here again, Rembrandt
had more incentive to use drypoint than a modern artist.

Rembrandt's etching ground has been the subject of considerable
discussion. A book published in 1660, nine years before the artist's
death, contains a recipe for "The Ground of Rinebrant of Rine."[17] This
ground, similar to that described by Bosse as a "soft" ground,[18]
consists of two parts wax, one part mastic, and one part asphaltum.
There are countless formulae for such grounds, but virtually all are
permutations of the same three ingredients, with only slight differences
in the proportions.[19] The ground given as Rembrandt's is a thoroughly
conventional one.

A knotty problem, however, is introduced by the last line of this 1660
description: "... lay your black ground very thin, and the white ground
upon it. This is the only way of Rinebrant...."[20] No elaboration is
given. This one line presents a number of problems, not all of which are
soluble. To take it at face value is to accept the contemporary evidence
that Rembrandt not only used a white ground but used it exclusively.
This assertion cannot be taken uncritically.

It will readily be seen that a white ground might be of considerable
assistance to an artist. His needle penetrates the white to the copper,
giving the familiar effect of a reddish ink line on white paper. A
normal ground, without treatment, is virtually transparent, making the
etcher's lines rather difficult to see.[21] The most usual procedure,
both in the 17th century and today, is to smoke the ground and
incorporate the soot with the ground by heating the plate slightly. This
gives a black ground, against which the lines appear light, the
negative of the ultimate print. The black ground is favored, both out of
long-established tradition and because it is very easy to apply.
Furthermore, artists today explain that they also enjoy the feeling of
working slightly blind, that one of their greatest rewards is the sense
of surprise in peeling the first proof print off the plate. For whatever
reason, the black ground has been preferred by the great majority of
artists, both past and present.

The description of Rembrandt's ground in 1660 takes knowledge of the
white ground for granted. Its technique certainly appears to have been
generally well known among artists in the middle of the 17th century.
Rubens, in a letter as early as 1622, mentions having received a recipe
for a white ground, although he could not remember it.[22] The first
technical explanation of the process appeared in Bosse's pioneer
treatise in 1645.[23] There is no reason why Rembrandt should not have
known of the white-ground technique and every reason to suppose that he

There is one piece of strong evidence that he did use a white ground
about 1631. One of Rembrandt's drawings exists which, unlike most of his
sketches is an exact prototype (in reverse) of a specific etching,
_Diana at the Bath_.[24] The back of this drawing is covered with black
chalk, and its lines show the indentation of tracing. The only
reasonable explanation of this evidence is that Rembrandt placed his
prepared drawing on top of a white-grounded plate and traced the lines,
depositing the black chalk lines on the ground, where he could then
trace them with his etching needle. Another similarly indented
drawing--for the portrait of Cornelis Claesz Anslo--has been held to
show the same procedure as late as 1641. This drawing, however, is
backed, not with black chalk as previously cited, but with ocher
tempera.[25] Although surely used for tracing, this gives perhaps even
more evidence of his use of a black ground rather than white, although
ocher lines would show on either. These conclusions are not meant to
imply in any way that Rembrandt used the tracing of a drawing for his
_Landscape with a hay barn_.... There is every probability that he did
not do so. The implication is rather that only where a traced drawing
with black backing exists do we have circumstantial evidence for the
use, and possibly a more general use, of white ground. Without the
published recipe no question would be likely to arise that Rembrandt
used anything but the standard black ground. With it, we must search for

Though the case must be left as "not proven," the use of a white etching
ground is consistent with Rembrandt's practice of using the simplest
effective means for achieving his artistic aims. The distinctive quality
of the print under consideration here is the artist's remarkable
placement and articulation of areas of black against the white paper.
Rembrandt may have found it far easier to visualize this ultimate effect
by using a white background for dark lines on his plate, rather than the

Rembrandt almost certainly made all the etched lines in this print in a
single operation. The lines were put on the plate before it went into
the acid. The plate was then etched by the acid in a single biting,
without stopping-out. The evidence for these assertions comes from the
print itself, as we have no direct testimony in the matter.

In the first place, the etched lines must be distinguished from the
drypoint lines applied at a later stage. The differences between the
types of line are more easily seen than described. The etched line is
clear and strong, from the clean biting of the acid. It is freer and
more autographic because it is drawn through a wax surface, not
scratched in a resisting metal surface.

[Illustration: FIGURE 8

Detail of _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_, left center,
showing light drypoint lines of the horizon and etched lines of figures
and hillside. Enlarged 10 times. (Smithsonian photo 59384.)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 9

Detail of _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_, left center,
showing forceful lines of tree branch in pure drypoint. Enlarged 10
times. (Smithsonian photo 59390.)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 10

Detail of _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_, center,
showing diagonal lines of light drypoint without burr. Enlarged 10
times. (Smithsonian photo 59385.)]

The drypoint line, by its nature, is more abrupt and forceful, showing
the quality of having been scratched rather than drawn. There are two
basic drypoint lines, depending upon the position in which the drypoint
needle is held. When it is vertical or nearly so, the resulting line is
shallow and prints more weakly and distantly than the etched line. When
the needle is pulled at an angle of about 30° to 60°, a very perceptible
furrow of copper burr is thrown up on one or both sides of the line on
the plate. This burr holds more ink than the clear channel and prints
with a highly distinctive inky richness. Basically, etching removes
metal from the plate entirely, whereas drypoint displaces it in furrows
of burr. The rich fuzzy line produced by the burr is what we most
typically associate with drypoint work. The first sort, the thin distant
line, is nevertheless just as truly drypoint as the latter and is
distinguishable by its forcefulness and clear direction.[26] The same
line may also be created, with slightly more work, by using a scraper to
remove the burr from a rich drypoint line.

[Illustration: FIGURE 11

Detail of _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_, bottom
right, showing rich drypoint lines with burr. Enlarged 10 times.
(Smithsonian photo 59386.)]

Another way of making lines in a plate is with a burin--an instrument
with a sharp triangular point--which is pushed through the copper,
instead of being pulled, as is the drypoint needle. When used
conventionally, the burin produces a very characteristic hard,
controlled printed line, one which does not appear in this print. When
used lightly, however, its line is virtually indistinguishable from
that of the vertical drypoint needle. It is quite possible that
Rembrandt used the burin in some of his work on this and other prints,
but it seems a somewhat less likely tool than the drypoint. First, the
non-etched lines in this print seem to have a more freely moving quality
than could probably be produced with a burin, a rather stiff, if
extremely precise tool. Second, when Rembrandt was commissioned in 1665
to engrave a portrait expressly with a burin, he found himself unable to
do so.[27] His inability, however, may be attributed as easily to
Rembrandt's artistic independence as to his inexperience with the burin.
Rembrandt's general use of the burin has been widely accepted. The
question may not be that simple. These visible differences, then, enable
us to separate the kinds of line within this print.

The author has attempted, by tracing only the etched lines in the print,
to recreate the state of the plate after Rembrandt's etching and before
the application of drypoint (figure 12). It can be seen that Rembrandt's
etched lines form only a foundation or skeleton for the finished work.
It is in no sense complete in itself. More important, the picture lacks
all the rich contrasts of light and shade which distinguish this print
and most of Rembrandt's finished work.

[Illustration: FIGURE 12

Traced sketch by the author, showing only the etched lines in
Rembrandt's print, _Landscape with a hay barn and a flock of sheep_.
(Smithsonian photo 59398.)]

It has been generally assumed that Rembrandt went through a fairly
normal process of stopping-out and also re-etching in the course of his
print-making. The visual evidence would indicate that he did not follow
this procedure here. Stopping-out is, of course, a means of creating
variations in the printed intensity of etched lines. After a plate has
etched for a certain time--depending on the artist's inclination--it may
be removed from the acid and some of its lines covered with a stop-out
varnish, similar in texture and acid resistance to the basic ground. The
plate is then put back in the acid and the remaining lines etched more
deeply. This can be repeated any number of times, giving a wide range of
intensity to the various etched lines. No such wide range of etched
lines appears in the finished print. Further, where the edge of applied
stop-out varnish crosses a single line, the change in depth of acid
biting at that point is readily visible. Again, no such change of depth
of a single line is visible here. The inference, unless attributed to
very long coincidence, seems probable that Rembrandt used only a single
acid etch on the entire plate, with no stopping-out.

Re-etching also seems unlikely. If the original ground has been removed
from a plate, the entire plate must be re-grounded, without smoking or
whitening, so that the previously etched lines show through. Noticeably
heavier etched lines appear at only a few places on this plate,
principally in the grass at the lower right. It is probable that
Rembrandt used a number of etching needles of different widths. We do
not see the typical changes in the lines produced by stopping-out or
re-etching. Re-etching of new lines crossing previously etched lines
often causes a slight penetration of acid under the ground into the old
lines. This shows in the printing as a dark spot at the point of
crossing. Such an effect is not found in this print. A similar result in
the cross-hatching at the lower left is caused instead by drypoint lines
crossing etched lines.

No direct evidence has been found concerning the acid corrosive used by
Rembrandt to bite his plate.[28] Only tentative conclusions can be drawn
from this and other prints. The etched lines in the _Landscape with a
hay barn_ ... appear to be bitten with a fairly strong acid. The lines
are relatively broad in relation to their depth, a strong-acid effect.
Furthermore, illustrations of some of Rembrandt's original plates from
this period show a similar broad line.[29] In addition, in the
photograph (figure 14) of at least one of the plates there is seen a
peculiarly ragged line which is often caused by bubbles formed on the
plate by acid action.[30] This appearance of bubbles is characteristic
only of the strong acids. Of the acid formulae suggested by Bosse in
1645, only one--a distillate of vitriol, saltpeter, and alum--appears to
be strong enough to produce the observed effects.[31] Generally
speaking, Rembrandt's later etchings show evidence of stronger acid
biting than his earlier work, which has more of the characteristics of
weak mordants.[32] Certainly, a strong acid would produce a much
speedier biting and bolder etched lines, providing him with a solid
foundation for his fine drypoint work, and enabling him to work
continuously, with a minimum of delay.

[Illustration: FIGURE 13

Detail of Rembrandt's finished print, _Landscape with a hay barn and a
flock of sheep_, lower right, showing lines of pure etching. Enlarged 10
times. (Smithsonian photo 59387.)]

[Illustration: FIGURE 14

Detail of the etched copper plate for Rembrandt's print, _Christ seated
disputing with the doctors_. After Coppier, p. 117. (Smithsonian photo

[Illustration: FIGURE 15

Detail of Rembrandt's finished print, _Landscape with a hay barn and a
flock of sheep_, far right, showing drypoint drawing of sheep and post.
Enlarged 10 times. (Smithsonian photo 59388.)]

Rembrandt's use of drypoint is, as Jakob Rosenberg says, "the most
important innovation in Rembrandt's mature graphic work."[33] After
etching his skeletal design on the plate, he went to work with his
drypoint needles--long, stiff, iron instruments--sharpened to a fine
point. An artist generally has several available, so that he does not
have to stop and re-sharpen in the course of his work. Rembrandt
evidently went even further and deliberately used dull needles to obtain
certain light line effects.

When the finished print is compared with the sketch of the etched lines
alone, it can be seen how vital the drypoint is to Rembrandt's whole
conception. The needle held vertically and slightly dulled, for
instance, produced the light shadings on the central hillock at lower
left. The sharp needle, held at an angle, threw up the burr which
printed as the rich blacks on both sides of the hay barn, along the bank
of the stream, and on the road at left center. The sheep and post at the
far right were completely drawn with drypoint, as was the shepherd of
the flock at left center (figure 16). It is interesting to note that the
flock originally had two shepherds, evidently a man and a woman,
standing at the center of the road and behind the flock.[34] These
figures were drawn in the ground and etched in the first stage of the
print. Rembrandt then must have decided that their proportion was wrong
for his composition. He reworked the area, using a scraper or burnisher
to flatten out his etched lines, and covered the remaining ghosts of the
figures with a mesh of drypoint cross-hatching. He then added the single
small figure of the shepherd boy entirely in drypoint.

[Illustration: FIGURE 16

Detail of Rembrandt's finished print, _Landscape with a hay barn and a
flock of sheep_, showing shepherd in drypoint, erased figures behind
flock, signature, and date. Enlarged 5 times. (Smithsonian photo

Houbraken, writing in 1718, talked of Rembrandt's technical secrets,
"which he would not let his pupils see."[35] In truth, there are no
secrets to this artist's _technique_ in the etching medium. But his
mastery of the _art_ goes far beyond communicable secrets.


[1] Hind 241 (+A. M. Hind+, _A Catalogue of Rembrandt's
Etchings_, 2 vol., rev. ed., London, 1923), Bartsch 224 (+Adam Bartsch+,
_Catalogue raisonne de toutes les estampes ... de Rembrandt_ ...,
Vienna, 1797). The particular example studied here is an impression of
the second state (of two) in the collection of the United States
National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

The author wishes to express his deepest gratitude to Jacob Kainen,
curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian Institution, for his acute
knowledge, unfailing helpfulness, and encouragement in the preparation
of this paper.

[2] P. G. Hamerton, for one, calls special attention to the
technical importance of this print: "I recommend the student to
familiarize himself with the workmanship of this plate...." (_The
Etchings of Rembrandt_, London, 1894, p. 71.)

[3] The date is unquestionably difficult to read. Bartsch
misread it as 1636 (op. cit., p. 148). Charles Middleton (_Descriptive
Catalogue of the Etched Work of Rembrandt van Ryn_, London, 1878, p.
299) was the first to identify the date as 1650. This has been accepted
by all modern authorities except George Biörklund (_Rembrandt's
Etchings: True and False_, Stockholm, 1955, no. 52-A, p. 103) who reads
it as 1652. This seems unlikely to me, not only on the great stylistic
affinity of this print to Rembrandt's unquestioned works of 1650, but
also on the basis of my own reading of the date. The presumed digit "2"
is quite unlike the "2" in Hind's 257 and 263, Rembrandt's only dated
prints of 1652. (_See_ figure 16.)

[4] The general location of this scene, as well as many others
in Rembrandt's oeuvre, has been identified by Frits Lugt (_Mit Rembrandt
in Amsterdam_, Berlin, 1920, pp. 136-140, revised from the original
Dutch, _Wandelingen met Rembrandt in en om Amsterdam_, Amsterdam, 1915;
see also +Lugt+, "Rembrandt's Amsterdam," _Print Collector's Quarterly_,
April 1915, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 111-169, and the attached map).

[5] +Cornelis Hofstede de Groot+, ed., _Die Urkunden über
Rembrandt (1575-1721)_, The Hague, 1906. On the lawsuit, see nos. 113,
117, 118, 120-3, 130, and 165. Geertghe was taken to the institution on
July 4, 1650.

[6] On the financial troubles, starting in 1653, see ibid.,
nos. 140 ff.

[7] The exact number is, of course, impossible to determine,
because of many uncertainties of attribution and dating. A. M. Hind, op.
cit., lists 236 prints before the year 1650, which seems as accurate a
count as is possible.

[8] According to Hind, op. cit., the 14 landscapes nos. 237-260
and 262-264 are attributable to the years 1650-52. Of the 27 prints from
these three years, 16 are actually signed and dated by Rembrandt. Nine
of these 16 are landscapes.

[9] E.g., +C. J. Holmes+, "The Development of Rembrandt as an
Etcher," _Burlington Magazine_ (August 1906), vol. 9, no. 41, p. 313.
The well-known story of his having drawn "Six's Bridge" (Hind 209) on
the plate while the servant went for the mustard is also often cited
(e.g., +Hind+, op. cit., p. 95), but if true appears to be atypical.

[10] +Otto Benesch+, _The Drawings of Rembrandt_, 6 vol.,
London, 1954-57.

[11] Benesch no. 1225, Groningen (Netherlands) Museum, inv. no.
210, dated about 1650, the wash added by another hand. This drawing was
formerly in the personal collection of Cornelis Hofstede de Groot and
was first reproduced and discussed by Otto Hirschmann in "Die
Handzeichnungen-Sammlung Dr. Hofstede de Groot im Haag, II," _Der
Cicerone_ (Leipzig, January 1917), vol. 9, no. 1/2, pp. 21-22.

[12] Benesch 850, _A Clump of Trees_, The Hermitage, Leningrad,
about 1648-50, and Benesch 1246, _Farm Building Among Trees_, Albertina,
Vienna, inv. no. 8873, Hofstede de Groot 1497 (_Die Handzeichnungen
Rembrandts_ ..., Haarlem, 1906), about 1650-51.

[13] Benesch 1236, _Farmstead with a Hay Barn_, Copenhagen,
about 1650.

[14] Benesch 1226, _Farm Buildings Beside a Road with Distant
Farmstead_, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Hofstede de Groot 1138, about
1650, with later additions. Ludwig Münz (_Rembrandt's Etchings_, 2
vols., London, 1952, no. 159, vol. 2, p. 84) cites two drawings, one in
the Ashmolean, one in the University Gallery, Oxford. Since the two
museums are now one and the same, Münz appears to have confused two
listings of the same drawing. Mr. Hugh Macandrew of the Ashmolean Museum
has very kindly confirmed, in a letter to the author, that in their
collection there is only the one drawing which is similar to this print.
There is yet another drawing, _Farm with Hay Barn_, in the Bonnat
collection at the Louvre, Paris, Hofstede de Groot 764, which is cited
by Hind as a study sketch. Though very similar to this print, in
reverse, it is considered a school piece by both Lugt and Benesch. It is
quite possible that one of Rembrandt's pupils accompanied him on his
walks and sketched many of the same subjects as the master. The drawing
reproduced in +Lugt+, _Mit Rembrandt_ ..., op. cit., fig. 87, is also
not by Rembrandt.

[15] Joachim von Sandrart, a former pupil of Rembrandt, writing
in 1675, quoted in +Hofstede de Groot+, _Die ... Urkunden_, op. cit.,
no. 329, p. 392.

[16] The plate for the print under discussion here is not known
to have survived. There are, however, still some 79 Rembrandt plates
whose present locations are known. Of these, 75 are in the collection of
Robert Lee Humber, on deposit at the North Carolina Museum of Art,
Raleigh, North Carolina. These are discussed at some length by André
Charles Coppier (_Les eaux-fortes de Rembrandt_, Paris, 1922, pp.
94-96). He gives the chemical content of the plate for the _Presentation
in the Temple_ (Hind 162, about 1640), as 95% copper with impurities of
tin, lead, zinc, arsenic, and silver. This may presumably be taken as
typical. +Münz+, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 47, gives a listing of the
surviving plates, but mistakenly presumes the Humber plates to be in the
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. As a matter of interest, the plate of the
print, _The Gold-Weigher_ (Hind 167), said by Münz to be in the
Rosenwald collection, Philadelphia, is not and never has been in that
collection. It is completely unknown to Mr. Lessing J. Rosenwald and his
curator. Its present whereabouts is unknown to the author.

[17] _The Whole Art of Drawing, Painting, Limning, and Etching.
Collected out of the Choicest Italian and German Authors.... Originally
invented and written by the famous Italian Painter Odoardo Fialetti,
Painter of Boloign. Published for the Benefit of all ingenuous Gentlemen
and Artists by Alexander Brown Practitioner. London, Printed for Peter
Stint at the Signe of the White Horse in Giltspurre Street, and Simon
Miller at the Starre in St. Paul's Churchyard, MDCLX._ Page 33. London,
1660. Quoted by +Münz+, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 208, who first discovered
the reference. Since Fialetti died in 1638, the reference to Rembrandt's
ground is likely to be by Brown or an anonymous contemporary editor.

[18] +Abraham Bosse+, _Traicté des manieres de graver en taille
douce_ ..., Paris, 1645, p. 41. Bosse's soft-ground formula, for
comparison's sake, is three parts wax, two parts mastic, and one part
asphaltum, which is very close to the cited Rembrandt ground.

[19] Numerous similar grounds are given in +E. S. Lumsden+,
_The Art of Etching_ (London: Seeley Service and Co., 1924); reprint
(New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1962), pp. 35-38.

[20] Loc. cit. (footnote 17).

[21] Some etchers, however, prefer this effect. Cf. +Lumsden+,
op. cit., p. 42.

[22] +Münz+, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 13, quotes this letter
without giving the source. Evidently this is the first written reference
to white ground.

[23] Op. cit., pp. 46-48. Knowledge of the process seems to
have disappeared completely during the 18th and 19th centuries. Hubert
Herkomer, writing in 1892, believed that he had invented the white
ground for the first time (_Etching and Mezzotint Engraving_, London,
1892, pp. 4 and 25).

[24] The etching is Hind 42. The drawing (Benesch 21, Hofstede
de Groot 893) is in the British Museum. The black chalk has been
confirmed (see footnote 25). It is also clear that the backing is not
graphite, which would, of course, show up on a black ground as well as a
white one.

[25] The etching is Hind 187. The drawing (Benesch 758,
Hofstede de Groot 896) is in the British Museum. Some scholarly
misinformation has unfortunately been passed on for years. +Münz+, op.
cit., vol. 2, p. 65, cites Jan Six ("Rembrandt's Vorbereiding ...,"
_Onze Kunst_, 1908, II, p. 53), who in turn cites the personal
observation of A. M. Hind of the British Museum, to the effect that this
drawing of Anslo was backed with black chalk. The two drawings had
apparently not been lifted from their mounts in something like sixty
years. In answer to the author's inquiry, Mr. J. K. Rowlands, Assistant
Keeper, Department of Prints and Drawings, the British Museum, very
kindly wrote: "I can now tell you about the backs of H. 42 and H. 187
[that is, the drawings for these two prints], which have now been
lifted. The reverse of _The Woman Bathing_ [_Diana at the Bath_] has the
remains of black unrefined chalk upon it and the portrait of Anslo is
backed with Ochre tempera. I think this news will interest you." I am
most grateful to Mr. Rowlands and his staff for their trouble and

[26] An excellent example of this type of line is seen in the
horizon lines on the left, which in this case were added only after
several proofs had been pulled from the plate. The addition of these
lines constitutes the difference between the recorded first and second
states of this print.

[27] The documents on this story were first published by
Bredius in 1909 ("Rembrandt als Plaatsnijder," _Oud-Holland_, v. 27, pp.
112 f.) and have been frequently cited since then. The print is the
portrait of Jan Antonides van der Linden (Hind 268).

[28] Confusion has arisen over a note, clearly in Rembrandt's
hand, on one of his drawings (Benesch 1351, Hofstede de Groot 763, dated
about 1654-55). The Dutch text is given in +Benesch+, op. cit., vol. 6,
p. 374. It reads, "In order to etch ...," and gives a recipe consisting
of turpentine and turpentine oil. This, of course, could not possibly be
a mordant. Münz discusses it (op. cit., vol. 2, p. 14) and concludes
that with the addition of mastic, this could be a kind of stop-out
varnish. We are not likely to come closer to an answer for this cryptic

[29] +Coppier+, op. cit.

[30] _Ibid._, p. 117. Detail of plate for Hind 277, dated

[31] +Bosse+, op. cit., pp. 5 and 11. Vitriol is copper or iron
sulfate, saltpeter is potassium nitrate, and alum is an aluminum sulfate
salt. Bosse's other two acids are distilled pure vinegar (acetic acid)
and a boiled mixture of vinegar and chloride salts. Both are relatively
weak. My thanks to Dr. Robert P. Multhauf for his advice on 17th-century

[32] +Felix Brunner+ (_A Handbook of Graphic Reproduction
Processes_, New York: Hastings House, 1962, p. 124), suggests that
Rembrandt may have used ferric chloride, a weaker mordant, around 1640.

[33] +Rosenberg+, _Rembrandt: Life and Work_ (London: Phaidon
Press, rev. ed., 1964), p. 330.

[34] My gratitude to Jacob Kainen for first pointing out the
existence of these disembodied spirits.

[35] Arnold Houbraken, quoted in +Hofstede de Groot+, _Die
Urkunden_ ..., op. cit., no. 407, p. 471.


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
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