The Entombment
etching and drypoint
circa 1654
on laid paper, watermark Double-headed Eagle (Hinterding E.a.)
a superb, intensely atmospheric impression of this rare and important print
third state (of four)
suffused with a strong, varied and selectively wiped plate tone
with much burr and remarkable inky relief
with thread margins
in very good condition
Plate 210 x 161 mm.
Sheet 211 x 162 mm.
George Bjørklund (1887- after 1968), Stockholm (Lugt 1138c); his sale, Klipstein & Kornfeld, Bern, 4 June 1957, lot 203 (erroneously described as later impression of the fifth state, 'Späterer Abdruck, auf Papier mit dem Adler und Basler-Stab').
Charles C. Cunningham Jr. (b. 1934), Boston (Lugt 4684).
Sam Josefowitz (Lugt 6094; on the support sheet verso); acquired from the above (through Robert M. Light) in 1982; then by descent to the present owners.
Bartsch, Hollstein 86; Hind 281; New Hollstein 284 (this impression cited)
Stogdon 46
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Rembrandt: Experimental Etcher, 1969-1970, no. 83, p. 123, 132 (illustrated).
Les Musées d'Art et d'Histoire, Cabinet des Éstampes. Geneva, États & Achèvement dans la Gravure du XVI au XX Siècle, 1986.

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Tim Schmelcher
Tim Schmelcher International Specialist

Lot Essay

More than any other plate in Rembrandt’s oeuvre, The Entombment has been the object of his experimental approach to printmaking in the later years. Not only did he alter the plate drastically between the first and the second state, he also chose different supports - from European paper to Chinese and Japanese papers to vellum – from one impression to another, and manipulated each pull by leaving varying degrees of plate tone and wiping the tone selectively to modify the illumination and pick out different highlights. Of the later states, virtually no two impressions look the same, as Christopher White pointed out: ‘…the dark metamorphoses offer a highly personal vision employing all the chance methods at an artist’s command, with each impression as unique as a monotype.’ (White, 1999, p. 95)
Within the biblical narrative, The Entombment follows directly on from the Descent from the Cross by Torchlight (see lot 24). Joseph of Arimathea has brought the dead Christ to his own tomb, here depicted as a vaulted cave or chapel, where the body is now being lowered into the grave.
The first state is in pure etching, the shading and modelling of the space and the figures rendered in regularly and openly spaced hatchings, with strong lines of equal weight. Although darkness and light are suggested, the whole scene is clearly discernible. We see Joseph of Arimathea standing at left above the sunken grave, the Virgin is sitting to his feet, her hands clasped in sorrow, a group of other grieving women is huddled behind her. Three men are lowering the body into the grave, a forth one has climbed down to support it from below. The light seems to come from a lamp covered by the foremost figure – or perhaps is emanating from the dead Christ Himself. Above this mournful scene – pushed into the lower left corner of the image, thereby reflecting the act of the entombment – we seen the arch of the cavern, with two skulls resting on a ledge. Behind these gruesome memento mori, the space recedes into darkness.
Already in the second state, Rembrandt obscured the composition considerably with dense hatching in drypoint and engraving, turning it into a truly nocturnal scene, and made it even darker in the subsequent states. The present example is a superb, richly tonal impression of the third state on white European paper. It demonstrates perfectly what interested Rembrandt in his experiments with this plate: to see how far he could go in the depiction of darkness. Here, the enclosed space is more felt than seen, the figure of Joseph of Arimathea is covered with tone and only seen in a dim twilight, the other figures on the left edge have been all but swallowed up by darkness. What little light there is falls on the Virgin, the body of Christ and the men supporting His body. These figures too are covered with tone which thickens incrementally towards the edges of the grave. To see this print is an astonishing experience, not unlike entering a lightless room and having to wait for the eyes to adapt to the gloom.
This impression, from the outstanding collection of Charles C. Cunningham, strikes a wonderful balance between what is visible and invisible, between the narrative and the nocturnal atmosphere, and leaves the viewer in wonder at Rembrandt’s exploration of the border between light and darkness. In a few other impressions, including one in the Josefowitz Collection, he took this experiment to the edge of the possibilities of printmaking.

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