This is one of the rarest of Rembrandt’s larger landscape etchings, despite the fact that Rembrandt took this plate through four different states. To our knowledge, only ten impressions of this print have appeared at auction over the last thirty years.
While Rembrandt in his etched landscapes often deviated from the exact appearance of any specific location, this plate actually began as a remarkably precise record of an existing building, namely the building with the tower at right. In the extremely rare first and second states, the tower is taller and topped with a cupola and a short spire, and it was precisely those characteristics which helped I. Q. van Regteren Altena to identify the building as that of the tax collector Jan Uytenbogaert (see lot 17 for his portrait), located on the Amstelveenseweg in the south-western outskirts of Amsterdam (Hinterding, Lugt Collection, no. 175b, p. 416). Curiously – and presumably for purely compositional reasons - Rembrandt then changed the appearance of the tower in the third state by burnishing out its upper parts, thereby obliterating the true depiction of the place.
Although always interested in meteorological and atmospheric effects, Rembrandt in his landscapes usually refrained from depicting the sky with etched lines. Instead, he preferred plate tone, polishing scratches or sulphur tinting (see lots 21 and 23 for example) to depict such ethereal phenomena as clouds, mist or rain. In the present landscape however, he aimed for a stronger contrast and covered the left side and part of the lower sky with etched lines to indicate dark clouds. The trees at left are still overcast and dark, while the rest of the copse and the buildings are bathed in sunshine. The effect is that of the sun suddenly breaking through receding rain clouds. The general idea is not dissimilar from Rembrandt’s famous Three Trees, in which the etched clouds and rain are even more prominent, while the present plate is much more understated, less dramatic and allegorical. The almost blank foreground, so evocative of a meadow in bright sunlight, is one of the sparsest - and loveliest – passages in all of his landscape prints.
The present impression compares well with the Salting impression of this state in the British Museum.