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    Sale 7570

    Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints

    2 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 58

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

    Four Illustrations to a Spanish Book (B., Holl. 36; H. 284)

    Price Realised  


    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
    Four Illustrations to a Spanish Book (B., Holl. 36; H. 284)
    the rare set of four etchings with engraving and drypoint, 1655, each final states of five, three, five and two respectively (in Hind's order of the plates), good impressions, with thread margins or trimmed to the platemark, David and Goliath with two small repairs to the shield, a repaired vertical tear at the upper right and the lower left corner re-attached, Daniel's Vision of the four Beasts with a small abraded area and a short tear at the right, each mounted at the upper sheet corners on the reverse; together with:
    MENASSEH BEN ISRAEL. Even Yekarah.
    Piedra gloriosa o, De la Estatua de Nebuchadnesar [Glorious stone, or On the Statue of Nebuchadnezzar].

    Amsterdam: 5415 [1655].
    138 leaves, [12], 259, [7] pages
    12mo, 12.8 x 6.8 cm., modern vellum.

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    Written in Spanish by Rabbi (Hacham) Menasseh ben Israel, Piedra Gloriosa is a messianic treatise on the Prophet Daniel's interpretation of the dream of the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. Menasseh examines the significance of the mysterious stone that shattered an immense statue and then 'became a great mountain and filled the whole earth' (Daniel 2:34). The rabbi identifies the stone as that upon which Jacob slept and with which David slew Goliath, and the four beasts of Daniel's own dream with the monarchies of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, which were to be succeeded by the Monarchy of Israel. The stone that destroyed the statue symbolised the Messiah, so that from the dream God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, 'one infers the existence of God.' By foretelling the impending redemption of the Jews, Menasseh considered the episode, intensely disputed between Christians and Jews, as 'one of the most luminous of the infallible prophecies found in all the Holy Scripture.'

    Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657), rabbi, author, printer and diplomat, of Marrano origin, was one of the most distinguished members of the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam. The etchings produced by Rembrandt are regarded as the first instance of a rabbi commissioning a Christian to illustrate a Jewish text, and as such is an important document in the history of Judaica. The circumstances surrounding the commission are unclear, but the suggestion that he made the plates out of friendship for the author (the two lived very near one another) is plausible, particularly as his services would otherwise have been beyond the rabbi's financial reach.

    Rembrandt illustrated three books only; for the first two he produced one etching each, for the present work he made four. Complete copies are extremely rare. Hinterding et. al. list examples in the Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, the University Library, Leiden, the Musèe du Petit Palais, Paris, the Institut Neerlandais (Collection F. Lugt), Paris, and one in the Fairfax Murray Collection.

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    The private Judaica collection of Prof. Mozes Heiman Gans of Amsterdam (d.1987), with his exlibris and his handwritten note in Dutch on front fly-leaf stating that the Rembrandt etchings were originally placed against pages 5, 81, 160, 186, suggesting that the plates were removed from this particular book.
    Bought by the present owner from Prof. Gans circa 1985.


    The title page of the present volume and the four etchings are illustrated in Memorbook, History of Dutch Jewry from the Renaissance to 1940, Prof. M. H. Gans, Bosch & Keuning, 1977, pp. 42-43.


    The Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam in the 17th Century, exhibition to mark the 300th anniversary of the inauguration of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, July 1975, nr: 27