Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ presented to the People, a drypoint

The Netherlands
Signed and dated AD 1655 (state III and VIII)

This imposing image represents a high point in Rembrandt's career as a printmaker. He has organized his complex subject into three horizontal and three vertical bands. In the centre, three figures stand under a dark arch. Pontius Pilate gestures towards Christ on his left, while between them stands the squat figure of the bandit Barabbas, on whom the story turns. Pilate asks the crowd if they want Jesus or Barabbas to be released. 'Barabbas!', they reply (John 18:39-40).

The strength of Rembrandt's design can be judged by comparing it to Lucas van Leyden's early engraving of the same subject. Rembrandt concentrates our attention on the human drama and enlarges the scale of Christ, Barabbas and Pilate, so that the story unfolds with a greater sense of drama.

A drypoint plate deteriorates quickly during printing, and Rembrandt responded by printing only a few impressions before reworking the plate. Eight states of this plate have been recognized. Astonishingly, in state VI he burnished out the animated crowd below the central platform, and replaced them with two cavern-like arches. The whole composition now focuses on the stage, and Rembrandt's transformation of Lucas van Leyden's plate is complete.

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Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ presented to the People, a drypoint

Christ presented to the People (state III)

  • Christ presented to the People (state VIII)

    Christ presented to the People (state VIII)

 

More information

Bibliography

E. Hinterding, G. Luijten and M. Royalton-Kisch, Rembrandt the printmaker (London, The British Museum Press in association with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2000)

C. White, Rembrandt as an etcher: a stud, 2nd edition (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1999)

Dimensions

Height: 288.000 mm
Width: 452.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1868-8-22-665;PD 1973-U-931 (Hind 271; Bartsch 76)

PPA41327;PPA41333

Bequeathed by Felix Slade

Location

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