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Rembrandt van Rijn, The Star of the Kings, a drawing

 

Height: 204.000 mm
Width: 323.000 mm

PD 1910-2-12-189

Prints and Drawings

    Rembrandt van Rijn, The Star of the Kings, a drawing

    The Netherlands, about AD 1645-47

    A traditional Christmas custom

    This drawing, in pen and brown ink, depicts a Netherlandish custom in celebration of the Christian feast of Epiphany (6 January), the commemoration of the visit of the three Kings to the newborn Christ. Children went from door to door carrying a lantern shaped like a star (the 'Star of the Kings'). They asked for money from the occupants of the houses.

    Rembrandt may have drawn this scene from life. To the left of the central group a family watches from the front of a house. The architecture is barely shown in the fluid lines of the ink. A mother with a basket and baby in her arms observe the group of children. Outside the main group, another child points to the star and pulls a smaller child who is clearly frightened and crying. In the front, in broad pen strokes, two dogs sniff at each other in greeting. Two men stare from the right, with another in the background.

    Both the brown wash and parallel hatching provide the shading necessary to suggest depth and the nocturnal atmosphere. The men at right stand against dark shadows while the back of the boy holding the star lantern is entirely seen in shadow. The lantern illuminates the unseen front of the boy and the rest of the group.

    M. Royalton-Kisch, Drawings by Rembrandt and his, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

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