The sacrifice of Iphigenia, after Rembrandt; to l a smoking altar with two statues behind (of Zeus and Artemis ?), on a raised platform to r kneels Iphigenia, Calchas (?) stands behind her covering her eyes while receiving the knife from a servant, numerous spectators beyond to r and a classical building behind the altar. c.1650-60 Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, over charcoal


© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Oo,9.114

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 92 (as Rembrandt)
Royalton-Kisch 2010 92 (anonymous after Rembrandt)
Benesch 1973 Add.979

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Formerly attributed to Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
After Rembrandt (anonymous) (biographical details | all objects)
1655 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The sacrifice of Iphigenia (?); after Rembrandt. At left a smoking altar with two statues behind (of Zeus and Artemis ?), on a raised platform to right kneels Iphigenia, Calchas (?) stands behind her covering her eyes while receiving the knife from a servant, numerous spectators beyond to right and a classical building behind the altar. c.1655

Pen and brown ink with brown wash and some black chalk (or oxidised white) on pale brown paper; ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink.

Verso: laid down on card, perhaps part of an old mat; inspected in transmitted light ans apparently blank.

No watermark visible.

Inscription Content: On backing paper, in graphite: '11 [in a circle]'.

Height: 189 millimetres
Width: 329 millimetres (chain lines horizontal, 23mm apart)

A large stain covers the lower left portion; minor damage near the corners; near vertical creases upper right.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, anonymous after Rembrandt, cat. no.92.
The subject is uncertain, and may either be the 'Sacrifice of Iphigenia' taken from Ovid, or the 'Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter' from the Old Testament (Judges, XI, 30-40). Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (XII, 25-28) relates that Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, willingly submitted to be sacrificed in order to allay the wrath of the goddess Artemis (Diana), who had sent contrary winds to prevent the Mycenaean fleet from sailing for Troy. Unusual in the present composition is the absence of Agamemnon, and one of the statues behind the altar on the left should be of Artemis, yet it cannot be identified.[1] The Old Testament story tells of Jephthah's rash vow to sacrifice the first creature that should meet him at the door of his house after achieving a military victory. His only child, his daughter, greeted him on his return and was subsequently sacrificed.
A fragment of a superior version, probably by Rembrandt himself, is at Besançon (Benesch 979).[2] Executed in the style of the mid-1650s, only the section from the bearded figure towards the lower right as far as the right hand of the executioner is preserved. The British Museum's drawing is therefore a complete record of the composition. Another copy is in Braunschweig and a school drawing in Munich shows a group similar to the two central figures.[3] The latter also resemble those in Rembrandt's etching of the 'Sacrifice of Isaac' of 1655 (Bartsch 35, Hind 283),[4] and the present drawing, like the original on which it is based, may date from the same period.

[1] Benesch believed the veiled figure towards the right to be Agamemnon. Hind, in London, 1915 (see Lit. below), tentatively identified the statues as Zeus and Artemis and the executioner as the priest Calchas.
[2] Known to me only through a photograph (Gernsheim 22095).
[3] For the Braunschweig drawing, inv. Z.334, see Exh. Braunschweig, 2006, p.162, no.A50, repr.; the Munich drawing is HdG 367, V.130, Munich, 1973, no.1152.
[4] As first noted by Hofstede de Groot (see Lit. below).

LITERATURE (as Rembrandt until Benesch, 1957 except Seidlitz, 1894):
Bürger, 1858, p.400 (subject unidentified); Vosmaer, 1877, p.594; Dutuit, IV, 1885, p.85; Seidlitz, 1894, p.123 (doubtful as Rembrandt; 'Scene of Sacrifice'); Neumann, 1902, p.397, note, and p.449, note ('Iphigenia', one of many subjects from Ovid by Rembrandt; importance of architecture in composition); Kleinmann, II, 50; Bell, c.1905, repr. pl.XIV; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.873 (c.1655; 'Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter, also called that of Iphigenia'; compares etched 'Sacrifice of Isaac', Bartsch 35, Hind 283, of 1655; notes related sketch in Munich, see nn.3-4 above); 'Rembrandt Bijbel', I, 1906, repr. opp. p.59; Wurzbach, 1910, p.417; London, 1915, no.92 (c.1650-60; as Exh. London, 1899 and HdG, 1906; quotes opinion of Seidlitz, 1894); Stockholm, 1920, pp.22 and 36, repr. fig.44 (compares 'Christ before Pilate', Benesch A115, and 'Adoration of the Shepherds', HdG 1550, both Stockholm, the latter a copy of Benesch A78; the background doubtful as Rembrandt); Valentiner, I, 1925, no.131, repr. (c.1660; 'Jephthah's Daughter'); Exh. London, R.A., 1929, p.229, and 1929[I], p.203, under no.595 (compares 'Achilles and Briseis' then in V. Koch collection, repr. 'Vasari Society', 2nd series, VIII, 1927, no.9); Hell, 1930, pp.7-8, 22 and 114, repr. p.113, fig.14 (reed pen; 1660s; firmly structured base of composition in the steps; economical indications of architecture; compares etching of 'Peter and John healing', Bartsch 94, Hind 301, and central figures to 'Sacrifice of Isaac', Bartsch 35, Hind 283); van Rijckervorsel, 1932, pp.142-4, repr. fig.175 (c.1660; 'Jephthah's Daughter'; compares Dürer drawing in Lichtenstein coll. and woodcut of 'St Catherine', Bartsch 120); von Alten, 1947, no.93, repr. ('Jephthah's Daughter'); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no. ad 979 repr. (copy of drawing of which a fragment in Besançon, Benesch 979; notes pupil's drawing in Munich and relationship to etching as HdG.; veiled figure to right identified as Agamemnon); Slive, 1965, I, no.107, repr. (as Benesch); Munich, 1973, I, p.168, under no.1152 (as Benesch); Exh. Braunschweig, 2006, p.162, under no.A50.

old testament (all objects)
classical mythology (scope note | all objects)
classical deity (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Representation of Calchas (?) (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Zeus/Jupiter (?) (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Iphigeneia (biographical details | all objects)
Representation of Artemis/Diana (?) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight (biographical details | all objects)

Exhibition History
London, 1899, no.A80 (suggesting 'Iphigenia' as the subject, rather than 'Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter', although exceptional for Rembrandt);
1938, no.92 (c.1650-60);
1956, p.20, no.3 (as Exh.1899).

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