Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Self-portrait of Rembrandt, bareheaded, bust in frontal view; only state. 1629 Etching with plate tone, touched with pen in dark grey ink and with handdrawn borderlines in pen and brown ink

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1629
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 182 millimetres (max.)
    • Width: 156 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with Rembrandt's monogram and dated (in reverse): "RHL" and "1629".
        Inscribed on verso in black chalk (or graphite), in an early seventeenth-century hand but almost certainly not Rembrandt's: "2 Wtenbogaert / 2 Ulespiegels / 2 [..] solemans [?] printen [?]"
  • Curator's comments

    For the copy by Flameng see also 1942,0711.7; 1866,1013.565 and 1865,1209.717.

    Hinterding et al. 2000
    Selected literature: Boeck 1953, pp. 198-9; Chapman 1990, pp. 11, 22, 24, 34, 59; London-The Hague 1999, no. 11; Schatborn 1985, no. 1; White 1999, pp. 115-16.

    Most of Rembrandt's early self-portraits are small or even very small. This is the first large etched self-portrait and it also has a certain status, as can be seen not just from its size, but from the monogram and date which appear prominently, in reverse, at the upper left. It resembles the signature on Rembrandt's paintings at this time. He probably intended to print an edition of this portrait but was evidently dissatisfied with the result and only two impressions are now known.
    The portrait departs from virtually everything ever made as an etching up to this time. This is because Rembrandt used not only a fine etching needle but also a quill or reed pen which, if the artist presses hard, produces a double line. The lines are sometimes so broad that the ink did not adhere, and Rembrandt retouched them, as can be seen most clearly in the London impression. He also etched and inked the plate very heavily, creating dark passages and strong contrasts. Nor was the plate entirely pristine, as a small scene appears at the upper left which may represent the 'Supper at Emmaus'. It is most visible on the London impression.
    The present 'Self-portrait' is an extreme example among Rembrandt's attempts to make etchings in the manner and style of drawings. The etching also closely resembles a drawn 'Self-portrait' of the same period. The drawing is not a true preliminary study, however, since it portrays Rembrandt as he saw himself, whereas the etching shows him as he wanted to be seen by others. On the print he has a lock of hair down to his shoulder on one side of his head, a style affected by the aristocracy but not by Rembrandt himself. The significance of this lock, which he added here and on other self-portraits, again points to the ambitions he had in making these portraits. He wears the same clothes as he does in the drawing - a white collar over a jacket with braiding, evoking associations with military uniforms.


  • Bibliography

    • New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 14 (Rembrandt) bibliographic details
    • White & Boon 1969 338 bibliographic details
    • Hinterding et al. 2000 4 bibliographic details
    • Hind 1923 4 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (D+F XVIIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1984 Sep-Nov, NY, Metropolitan Mus of Art, James McNeill Whistler 1984/5 Nov-Jan, Ontario, AG of Ontario, James McNeill Whistler 1999 June-Sep, London, National Gallery, Rembrandt by Himself 2000/1 Sep-Jan, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 'Rembrandt...'
    2016 Jun-Sep New York, Morgan Library, Rembrandt's First Masterpiece

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Self portrait bare headed: bust, roughly etched.  1629  Etching with plate tone, with inked line around four sides

Self portrait bare headed: bust, roughly etched. 1629 Etching with plate tone, with inked line around four sides

Image description



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