Rembrandt van Rijn, The Artist drawing from the model, an etching

The Netherlands, around AD 1639 (state II)

This is an unfinished etching, with drypoint and burin. The artist could be Rembrandt himself, drawing his model while surrounded by the paraphernalia of his studio. Immediately behind him, a large unpainted canvas rests on its easel. Above the artist hangs a lightly sketched shield, sword and plumed helmet. In the right background, a sculpted bust draped with a cloth is illuminated from below. The model stands on a low platform holding some drapery and a long palm frond.

Rembrandt's composition is inspired by an earlier artist's etching of Pygmalion, the legendary king who fell in love with an ivory statue he had sculpted, and which then came to life. However, Rembrandt's artist is clearly drawing rather than sculpting, so the nude is more probably a living model and not a completed statue.

The unfinished state of the print shows us something of Rembrandt's working methods. For him, etching a plate was a process of exploration, not a straightforward transcription of a finished design. The seated artist is very roughly sketched in drypoint. Rembrandt evidently wanted to judge the effect of the darkly-etched background before proceeding with the figures. He then made a drawing of the finished composition on a separate sheet (now in The British Museum), which renders the artist smaller and in shadow, leaving only the model, standing on a longer platform, fully illuminated. This may have been his final plan, although the plate remained unfinished.

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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)

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


Height: 232.000 mm
Width: 184.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1973-U-995 (Hind 231; Bartsch 192)


Bequeathed by C.M. Cracherode (1799)


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