Equally daring as Saint Jerome in a dark Chamber (lot 25) in its depiction of darkness, this etching shows a little street scene during an Epiphany-procession in Amsterdam. On 6 January, to celebrate the Adoration of the Magi, groups of children and grown-ups would walk through the city at night, singing and collecting small gifts. As a reference to the Star of Bethlehem that led the three kings to the stable, each group would carry a star-shaped lantern. We can see such a group in the foreground, partially lit by the lantern. Another lantern shines far in the background, and a few windows are dimly lit from inside the houses. The rest of the scene disappears in almost complete darkness. We can only vaguely discern the figures in the foreground, the outlines of the houses and rather guess than see that the distant lantern is on a bridge above a canal. As so often, Rembrandt doesn’t ‘depict’ the scene as much as making us experience it for ourselves, as if we are part of this nocturnal procession – an effect that only fine, early impressions can convey.
The present impression is very similar in quality to the Cracherode impression in the British Museum, which is however on rather toned paper and trimmed.