- Museum number
Diana at the bath; whole-length female nude in wood with feet in water, facing left with head turned to front. c.1631
Etching, printed on laid paper with (?)eagle watermark
Watermark: Double-headed eagle (Hinterding catalogue, variant A.a.a., datable 1632-34)
- Production date
- 1631 (circa)
Height: 177 millimetres (trimmed)
Width: 159 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For the preparatory drawing see 1895,0915.1266. For another impression see also F,5.150. For the copy in reverse by Lievens (head only) see 1874,0808.2441.
Selected Literature: Royalton-Kisch 1992, no. 5; Royalton-Kisch 1993b p. 174; Schatborn 1993, p. 164; Schatborn 1994, p. 21; White 1999, pp. 195-6.
Hinterding et al. 2000:
Rembrandt first sketched the figure for his print of 'Diana at the bath' in a drawing in black chalk. This gives every appearance of having been made from life, as is suggested by the immediacy of the glance and the convincing description of the light raking across the body. On top of some generalized shading in the background Rembrandt finally dashed in the quiver and arrows, anticipating the subject-matter of the etching, but the woodland is indicated only summarily. His chief concern appears to have been to fix the figure's pose and the shadows immediately surrounding her, which are vigorously set down with a more temperate addition in brown wash (which has since faded to near-invisibility).
The outlines of the figure were pressed through onto the copper with a sharp point. No longer confronted by the model, the resulting, etched figure appears more mechanical, the expression more dimmed. The subtlety of modelling in the shadow's is also undermined by the deep blacks down the front of the torso in the print. These and some other adjustments, such as the modelling of the nearer leg, and the lack of any embellishment to the model's face or other features, were perhaps intended to emphasize the 'realism' of the nude, thereby challenging the normative idealization of mythological goddesses in western art, an approach that had been taken for granted since the Renaissance. On the other hand the background vegetation, though no less detailed, is etched in a lively manner, almost as if from nature, producing some of the most satisfactory passages in the print. The position of the quiver has been altered and the rich texture of the robe below the arms, with what appears to be an embroidered and jewelled pattern, is convincingly suggested. Elsewhere Rembrandt seems almost wilfully to have refrained from working up the details: for example, the drapery over the thigh appears flat, and the water in the central foreground is also barely elaborated. The patch of light above the further arm must have been left open - unfinished, even - in order to prevent the shaded side of the face from sinking into the background.
These uneven qualities, combined with the somewhat pale tonality of most surviving impressions from the lightly bitten plate, have led some commentators to suggest that it was executed with studio assistance [E.g. Rovinski 1890, 110.201; Münz 1952, no. 134]. Yet a more detailed and mechanical finish is characteristic of several prints for which preparatory drawings were made [See further the Introduction to Hinterding et al. 2000, pp. 64-81]. Also worthy of note is the pentimento in the drawing where the further arm of the figure, originally reaching down towards her drapery, is raised to comply with its position in the print: it would have been difficult for an assistant to produce the final arm on the basis of the sketch.
Rembrandt probably made the print in 1631, the year in which he moved definitively to Amsterdam. It was a period during which he began to display a greater interest in mythological subjects, perhaps prompted by his contact with courtly tastes through Constantijn Huygens, the secretary to the Prince of Orange in The Hague, in around 1628-9. Yet Rembrandt's approach to this kind of iconography was unconventional, and only the quiver suggests that the goddess Diana is represented. Along with its 'pair', the 'Naked woman seated on a mound' (1843,0607.126), the etching may well have prompted the poet Andries Pels' (1631-81) attack on the artist:
"When he would paint a naked woman, as sometimes happened, he chose no Greek Venus as his model, but a washerwoman or peat-treader from a barn, naming his error truth to Nature, and everything else idle decoration. Flabby breasts, wrenched hands, yes even the marks of corset-lacings on the stomach and of the stockings around the legs, must all be followed, or nature was not satisfied". [Pels 1681, pp. 35-6. Without naming Rembrandt, Jan de Bisschop made similar comments about unspecified Dutch depictions of the nude ten years before, in his 'Paradigmata', The Hague 1671 (in the unpaginated dedication to Jan Six). Slive 1953, p. 83, already brought the 'Naked woman seated on a mound' (1843,0607.126) into the discussion of Pels' remarks].
The controversy rumbles on to this day, with some writers claiming that these nudes conform to an ideal, while others, somewhat more plausibly in our view, believe that they were intended to challenge Neo-Platonic, classicizing styles of representation [E.g. respectively Hollander 1975, pp. 108 and 160, and Clark 1966, p. 11]. Both prints attracted some early emulators: Jan van Neck (1636-1716) repeated the figure of Diana closely in his painting of 'Susannah and the Elders', [Sumowski, 'Gemälde', 1, repr. p. 151; another painting, long attributed to Rembrandt himself, follows the composition yet more closely (ex-Warneck collection, Amsterdam, Bredius 461)] and an etched copy of the head only, in reverse, has been attributed to Jan Lievens [Rovinski 1890, no. 83]. The pair, the 'Naked woman seated on a mound', was copied in an etching by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77) during his visit to Amsterdam in 1635 (see 1843,0607.126) [Pennington, 603].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 Jun-Sep, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, Rembrant's Women
2001 Sep-Dec, London, Royal Academy, Rembrandt's Women
2018 15 May-22 July Historical Baggage: Glenn Brown and his sources, British Museum G90a
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: F,7.26