Rembrandt van Rijn, The Entombment, an etching

The Netherlands, around AD 1654 (states I, III and IV)

This is one of a series of prints made by Rembrandt in the 1650s that depict episodes from the life of Christ. Here he was inspired by a drawing from the studio of the Italian Renaissance master, Raphael, of which Rembrandt made a copy, now in the Teyler Museum, Haarlem. From this he derived the cavernous interior of the tomb.

The bearded old man standing on the left may be Joseph of Arimathaea, who gave up his tomb for Christ. Below him, Mary's slumped frame carries the curve of the design towards the limp body of her son, supported by five men. One of them has jumped into the grave to lift the body from below, while the bearded figure must be holding the lamp that illuminates the scene. In the opposite corner, a group of mourning women look away from this painful sight.

The first state of the plate is entirely etched, with open, parallel hatching. Rembrandt printed several impressions on oriental paper, which produces an especially rich effect. He then reworked the plate all over with drypoint and burin, plunging the scene into darkness. In the third state, he burnished down the lines above the two skulls, forming a smaller arch beneath the great vault. For each impression he inked and wiped the plate differently, so that every one is virtually a unique work of art. Some impressions are so dark that it appears as if the lamp has been replaced by a flickering candle.

Rembrandt's realistic approach to the subject-matter is typical of his art, and was widely influential.

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Rembrandt van Rijn, The Entombment, an etching

The Entombment (state I)

  • The Entombment (state III)

    The Entombment (state III)


More information


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)


Height: 211.000 mm
Width: 161.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1910-2-12-360 (state I);PD 1843-5-13-249 (state III);PD 1910-2-12-387 (state IV)


State I: Bequeathed by George Salting


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