- Museum number
The Hundred Guilder print; Christ standing in a rocky landscape preaching to a crowd of people, many sick; while gesturing with his right hand towards a baby which a woman in a turban holds up to Him at left; an old woman with her hands lifted in prayer at right, behind a sick person who lies leaning against her, another sick person in a makeshift wheeled trolley behind them; people looking through an arched doorway to far right; with Christ's figure and a lamp inside the building to right as the sources of light; first state before the additional shading with diagonal lines on the neck of the donkey
Etching, drypoint and burin on Japan paper
- Production date
- 1648 (circa)
Height: 281 millimetres
Width: 388 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is first state before parallel shading on the neck of the donkey at right, for other impressions and a counterproof see also F,4.155-156; F,7.5; 1843,0607.58; 1848,0911.36-37; 1895,0915.421; and 1910,0212.383. For impressions of the plate reworked by Captain Baillie see also F,4.157; 1859,0806.33; 1927,1117.1; 1928,0630.8; and 1938,0204.1; see N. Stogdon, 'Captain Baillie and the Hundred Guilder Print', in Print Quarterly 13 (1996), pp.53-57. For a photogravure see 1946,0215.1.
Selected literature: Boon 1964, pp. 85-90; Boston-St Louis 1980-81, no. 98; Schatborn 1985, no. 21; Pans 1986, no. 80; Berlin-Amsterdam-London 1991-2, pp. 242-5, no. 27; Royalton-Kisch 1993b, pp. 180-81; Melbourne-Canberra 1997-8, no. 111; White 1999, pp. 54-64.
Hinterding et al. 2000:
The 'Hundred guilder print' has since its creation been admired as Rembrandt's most ambitious, complex and highly worked composition as a printmaker. Gersaint referred to it in 1751 as "Rembrandt's most capital performance", and later in the eighteenth century, in a spirit of homage, the worn-out plate was reworked and finally cut into segments by Captain William Baillie (1723/4-1810) [For a recent discussion see Hinterding 1993-4, pp. 25-6. On Baillie's motives for reworking the plate (which was done on subscription) see Stogdon 1996].
That it is known in only two seventeenth-century states, with the minor difference between them of additional shading over the neck of the donkey on the right and on the far wall of the archway, belies the exceptional effort that the plate represents in terms of imaginative power, technical brilliance and pictorial finish. Rembrandt applies every tool at his command and in a variety of styles, from the freely outlined Pharisees in debate on the left, flooded in light, to the precise rendering of the textures that apparel the figures who enter from the right. All the groups are subjugated to the overriding chiaroscuro, which ranges from the deep blacks into which Christ's halo melts away, to the areas left white which suggest a sudden source of startling illumination (which is more muted in impressions on Japanese paper). The play of shadows is nowhere made more manifest than by the dark silhouette cast on Christ's robe by the central figure with praying hands. Yet at times, as in the more mechanically shaded section at the upper left, and the white robe of the man seen from behind near the left edge (whose hat and hands are more highly worked), the etching, which was never signed by the artist, seems somewhat unresolved. The disparate styles and degrees of detail, especially the alterations and additions in drypoint that appear to have been made as work progressed on the plate [White 1999, pp. 54-64 enumerates several such 'pentimenti', e.g. in Christ's feet, head and hands, behind the figures to the left, and in the shadows behind Christ. There is also a touched impression of the first state in the British Museum, with additions made with the tip of the brush in grey wash (Cracherode F,7.5) but the rework is not attributable to Rembrandt himself], have led to the suggestion that the etching was executed over a considerable period of time. This may well have been the case, although the variety also serves to enhance the visual interest. In addition, Rembrandt's use of oriental papers in many impressions, has the effect of suffusing the scene in a dense, almost dusty atmosphere, reminiscent of that occupied by the civic guard in the 'Night watch', which was completed in 1642. Indeed, the 'Hundred guilder print' rivals that painting in its degree of ambition and complexity.
Many aspects of the print, both compositional and stylistic, are comparable to etched works by Rembrandt of the first half of the 1640s: the 'Beheading of the Baptist' of 1640 (B.92), the 'Triumph of Mordecai' (F,4.69), in which the foreground figure seems to anticipate that of Christ in the present work, and, for the rich background textures, such prints as the 'St Jerome in a dark chamber' (B.105) and the 'Student at a table by candlelight' (B.148). Yet the watermarks suggest that the known impressions were pulled only from around 1647-8. Presumably many passages, and perhaps especially those containing drypoint, were added only after the middle of the decade. It is difficult with Rembrandt to draw general conclusions from this about his normal modus operandi, but he may sometimes have mulled over his more complex designs, whether painted or etched, for a considerable period before they were finally allowed out of the studio.
The title, the 'Hundred guilder print', may have originated early. In a letter from Jan Meyssens of Antwerp to Charles Vanden Bosch, Bishop of Bruges, dated 9 February 1654, he states: "Also here is the rarest [i.e. finest] print published by Rembrandt, in which Christ is healing the sick, and I know that in Holland [it] has been sold various times for 100 guilders and more; and it is as large as this sheet of paper [on which the letter is written], very fine and lovely, but ought to cost 30 guilders. It is very beautiful and pure. [Van den Bussche 1880, pp. 358-89. "Vooder is alhier de raerste print van Rembrant dier wtgaet, daer Criistus de melatsche geneest, ende jck wete als datse jn Hollant diversche keeren vercocht syn 100 gul. ende meer; ende is soo groot als dit blad pampier, seer fray ende ardich, maer sy souden moeten 30 guldens costen, is seer schoon ende suyver." I am grateful to Ger Luijten for this important reference. The same high price was mentioned in 1711 by Von Uffenbach (1753, III, p. 581), publishing his record of 1 March 1711 when he noted that the print was lacking from the collection of David Bremer. Gersaint 1751, p. 60, recorded that Rembrandt exchanged an impression with a dealer from Rome for one hundred guilders' worth of prints by Marcantonio Raimondi, a version of the story recorded on the verso of the Amsterdam impression]. This letter speaks volumes concerning Rembrandt's fame, and the interest engendered by this print among his contemporaries (even among Roman Catholic Bishops). The composition in fact represents several episodes related in chapter 19 of the gospel of St Matthew. The text describes how Christ was followed by multitudes as he travelled out of Galilee to the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan, where he healed the sick among them; and the Pharisees, attempted to argue with him concerning the legality of divorce. Of central importance are the lines devoted to Christ as a healer of children: "Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray. And the disciples rebuked them; but Jesus said: Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" [Verses 13-14. The interpretation of the etching as representing the whole of Matthew 19 is supported by a poem by Rembrandt's contemporary H. F. Waterloos, written on an impression in Paris (see recently Berlin-Amsterdam-London 1991-2, p. 242)]. The print shows two mothers with their young offspring approaching Christ from the left, the first restrained by the bearded St Peter. But Christ welcomes them openly. Seated between the mothers with their young offspring is a contemplative figure, probably the rich young man described in verses 16-24, who hesitated to relinquish his wealth and follow Christ. After the man's departure, Christ stated that 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God', and the camel on the right may allude to this passage.
The complexity of the composition led Rembrandt to sketch it out in preparatory drawings, a few of which survive, although the authenticity of the earliest is disputed. This sheet, which includes a tentative rendering of Christ, differs in all but the most general sense from the final design. In style it is characteristic of Rembrandt's most freely penned studies of the mid-1640s, [see further the Introduction to Hinterding et al. 2000, p.77-80. The most telling comparison is perhaps with the signed drawing of the 'Star of the Kings' in the British Museum (Benesch 736); note also its compatibility with the other drawings related to the etching] and as the light comes from the left it may be an abandoned idea for the figures to the left of Christ (his right) in the etching. The second composition drawing contains the germ of the arrangement of the figures on Christ's other side. Despite its cursory style it may have been preceded by the sketch of a 'Man gesturing' who appears again (minus his cap) in the centre of the Berlin sheet , and by two separate drawings for the 'Sick woman' at Christ's feet, where her pose is less close to the final version. Clearly this figure, perhaps inspired by Rembrandt's drawings of Saskia in bed, was radically rethought. A further drawing sketches a 'Blind old man led by a woman', a motif that was adopted with adjustments to their postures: in the print the old man shuffles along more weakly, his head sunk and further arm lowered (the latter change already indicated in the drawing), while the woman changes the direction of her glance to face the figure of Christ [another drawing, of a standing 'Mother and child' (Benesch 1071) has also been associated with the etching but the connection is not persuasive. The Louvre drawing of an 'Old man led by a woman' may also be compared with the sketches of a similar motif, but showing the old man led towards the spectator, in Stockholm and Rotterdam (Benesch 189-90)]. In style all the drawings are compatible with Rembrandt's work of the mid-1640s. The alterations that Rembrandt finally introduced reorganize and simplify the dynamics of the figure groups so that they achieve an almost Raphaelesque refinement, always subservient to the focal point of Christ, from whom radial lines of force extend to bind the composition as a whole.
Throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century this was the most famous of Rembrandt's prints. It gained its familiar soubriquet from a story, which can be traced back to the early eighteenth century, that Rembrandt himself had paid this very high price in order to buy back an impression. The popularity of the print was to lead to a very unusual history for the plate. This is a fine early impression printed from the copper plate soon after Rembrandt had finished working on it. The 'burr' caused by the drypoint work can be clearly seen: the ridges of copper thrown up by the artist's sharp point hold much ink which prints as a rich smudge. By the time the later impression (1973,U.1026) was printed, perhaps in the early eighteenth century - long after Rembrandt's death - the burr had completely disappeared, flattened by the pressure of the printing press, and many of the drypoint lines had been worn away by repeated wiping of the plate. The result is a ghost compared with early impressions, and as such much less interesting to collectors. In consequence many of these late impressions were faked up to look like early ones (1843,0607.58): the composition was 'refreshed' in brush and ink. By the second half of the eighteenth century the plate was so worn that there was little to be gained by printing it any longer. At this point it fell into the hands of Captain William Baillie (1723-1810), an Englishman who as an amateur printmaker had made a large number of plates in many different techniques. He set himself the task of reworking the original plate with his own etching and drypoint tools, and bringing it back to the state in which it had been left by Rembrandt in 1649. His success can be judged in F,4.157. Although the result looks slightly more like a Rembrandt than 1973,U.1026, contemporaries had no difficulty in deciding that the result was a Baillie rather than a Rembrandt, and the plate ended its days ignominiously cut into pieces which were then printed separately.
Other admirers of Rembrandt confined their efforts to making straightforward copies on other copper plates. One such is 1925,0612.1, which is so poor that it can readily be distinguished from an original. Other copies of simpler plates can be very deceptive indeed, and have often passed for originals; some of these were certainly made with intent to deceive, others simply as tours de force of skill on the part of the copyist.
The invention of photography in the nineteenth century introduced a new factor. The process of photogravure (1946,0215.1) allowed a new plate to be made by photographic means from a negative taken from a fine original impression. This plate was then printed by hand in exactly the same way that Rembrandt had printed his plate in the 1640s.
A history as complicated as this produces considerable problems for the concept of originality: 1973,U.1026 is unquestionably an original, and the art market would value it in the hundreds of pounds; 1946,0215.1 would only be valued at a few pounds and is unquestionably a facsimile, yet is far closer to Rembrandt's artistic intentions than F,4.157 - indeed, many will get as much aesthetic pleasure from it as from 30a. Finally, 1925,0612.1 is only in part less of a copy than F,4.157, which however, because it happens to be made on Rembrandt's plate, is regarded in a quite different light.
2006 label text for "Rembrandt: a 400th anniversary display":
Christ healing the sick: the Hundred Guilder Print, c.1648
Etching, drypoint and burin, Hind 236, 1st state, printed on Japanese paper
This famous etching already commanded 100 guilders, an enormous sum, in Rembrandt's day, hence its nickname. Rembrandt's masterly illumination of this complex scene may fairly be said to rival his most celebrated painting, the "Night Watch" (now in the Rijksmuseum). The print represents Christ healing the sick and encouraging the approach of children, while the Pharisees on the left debate with him. Rembrandt's style ranges from sketchiness to elaborate detail, and he portrays a veritable panorama of human types and conditions.
Bequeathed by C.M. Cracherode, 1799, 1973,U.1022
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1992 Mar-May, London, National Gallery, 'Rembrandt'
2014 Jun-Oct, Suffolk, Gainsborough's House, Rembrandt the Print Maker
2017-18 Sept-Jan, BM, G90, The Business of Prints
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1973,U.1022