• Old Master Prints auction at Christies

    Sale 7781

    Old Master Prints

    8 December 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 57

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

    The Death of the Virgin (B., Holl. 99; H. 161)

    Price Realised  


    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
    The Death of the Virgin (B., Holl. 99; H. 161)
    etching and drypoint, 1639, with an unidentified Letters watermark, a very good impression of the third, final state, printing with effective contrasts, with narrow margins, two small brown spots towards the upper edge, some very minor pale foxing, a central drying crease mainly visible on the reverse, a small thin spot at the left, generally in very good condition
    P. 404 x 312 mm., S. 407 x 316 mm.

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    The Death of the Virgin was Rembrandt's first large etching since The Angel appearing to the Shepherds (B., Holl. 44; H. 120), and one that presented something of a problem, since he needed two attempts to complete it. He started the subject on a smaller plate, but then abandoned it, re-using the plate for The Three Trees (B. 212). His perseverence was amply rewarded as the result is a wonderful mix of sketch and finely described detail, and whilst the focus of the composition is never in doubt, those who surround the bed are active participants in the unfolding drama rather than mere bystanders or a Greek chorus.

    In an important deviation from most of the other treatments of this subject, Rembrandt's Mary is no blissfully smiling, youthful apparition, but clearly a sick old woman. It was probably no coincidence that during these years Saskia spent many of her days in bed, and numerous drawings attest to her husband's constant presence at her bedside.

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