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Ephraim Bonus, Jewish Physician

Ephraim Bonus, Jewish Physician
etching with drypoint and engraving, 1647, on laid paper, watermark Basilisk (Hinterding A-a-a), a very fine, rich and velvety impression of New Hollstein's second, final state, printing with considerable burr on the cloak and banister and a light plate tone, trimmed to or on the platemark on three sides, with the blank border and a narrow margin below, in very good condition
Plate 240 x 177 mm., Sheet 242 x 178 mm.
Private European Collection (according to the gallery label verso).
With Pace Editions, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Bartsch, Hollstein 278; Hind 226; New Hollstein 237
Christopher White, Rembrandt as an Etcher - A Study of the Artist at Work, London, 1969, p. 128-9.
Erik Hinterding, Rembrandt Etchings from the Frits Lugt Collection, Fondation Custodia, Paris, 2008, no. 206, p. 498-501 (another impression illustrated).
Nicholas Stogdon, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings by Rembrandt in a Private Collection, Switzerland, privately printed , 2011, no. 125, p. 218-9 (another impression illustrated).

Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Ephraim Hezekiah Bueno (1599-1665), or Bonus, was a prominent physician in Amsterdam and came from a Sephardic family of doctors. As a wealthy, literary man who both translated and wrote poetry, he was a friend and supporter of Menasseh ben Israel, the theologian and publisher, and Rembrandt's neighbour on the Jodenbreestraat. It might well have been Menasseh who introduced Rembrandt to Bueno, thereby prompting the commission of this portrait.
Whilst most of his etched portraits were worked directly onto the plate, this etching is based on a small oil sketch, now in the Rijksmuseum (inv. no. SK-A-3982). Although immediately recognisable, the etching is quite different from the sketch. While the little painting concentrates entirely on the doctor's features, in the etching Rembrandt added most of the body and all of the setting. More importantly however, he changed the expression of the sitter: in the sketch Bonus looks directly at us, while in the print his right eye is diverted and seems to look into the middle distance. His stance at the foot of the staircase, hand resting on the banister, is quite formal and imposing, yet his distracted, introspective expression lends this portrait a sense of intimacy and melancholy. Whereas in the oil panel Rembrandt painted only the surface of the face, in the etched plate 'he succeeds in getting beneath the skin, and suggesting the inner life of the sitter' (White, 1999).
The first state of the print can be regarded as a proof state and is exceedingly rare (only three impressions are known, all in public collections). Rembrandt completed the plate by adding some shading to the banister, to the areas between the balusters and deliberately removing the heavy burr on Bueno's ring. The few first state- and many second state-impressions occur on the same paper with a Basilisk watermark (such as the present impression), evidence that they were printed in quick succession. No late impressions of this print are known, and although Hinterding and Rutgers (New Hollstein 2008) identified two editions (the other with a Strasbourg Lily watermark) 'the quality of these sheets is always so good that it is not easy to say which of the two editions is the earlier.' In his later portraits, such as the one of Ephraim Bonus, Rembrandt increasingly used very direct printing methods, such as drypoint and plate tone, to add immediacy and atmosphere to the figure and the surroundings. The present impression is richly inked and prints with much burr, in particularly on Bueno's clothing, lending the image a dark velvety quality and an intense chiaroscuro effect.

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