Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape

Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape
etching and drypoint
circa 1653
on firm, warm-toned Japan paper
a superb, atmospheric impression of the extremely rare first state (of two)
the drypoint work on and around the lion's mane, the tree stump and the figures on the bridge suffused with burr
printing with a rich plate tone throughout and inky plate edges
the horizontal wiping marks and the sulphur tinting in the sky at right very pronounced
with small to narrow margins
in very good condition
Plate 259 x 205 mm.
Sheet 263 x 208 mm.
Ambroise Firmin-Didot (1790-1876), Paris (Lugt 119); his posthumous sale, Danlos fils & Delisle et G. Pawlowski, Paris, 16 April -12 May 1877, lot 861 (‘Extrêmement rare. – Magnifique épreuve, très chargée de manière noire, tirée sur papier du Japon.’) (Fr. 2.100; probably to Gutekunst).
Probably with H. G. Gutekunst (1832-1914), Stuttgart and London; acquired at the above sale.
Edward Smith Jr. (2nd half 19th century), London (Lugt 2897); Sotheby’s, London, 20 November 1880, lot 54 (‘…first state on India paper, from the Didot Collection’) (£60; to Thibaudeau).
With Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (1840-1893), Paris and London (without mark, see Lugt 2473); acquired at the above sale.
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), London and Arlesford (Lugt 1227); presumably acquired from the above; his sale, 15 June 1891 (and following days), lot 418 (£58; to Deprez).
Presumably with Deprez & Gutekunst, London; acquired at the above sale.
Charles Williston McAlpin (1865-1942), New York (without mark and not in Lugt); by descent to his widow; bequeathed to Grolier Club in 1949.
The Grolier Club, New York; their sale, Christie’s, New York, 1 November 1983, lot 118 ($181.500; to Tunick).
With David Tunick, Inc., New York; acquired at the above sale.
Sam Josefowitz (Lugt 6094; on the support sheet recto); acquired from the above in 1983; then by descent to the present owners.
Bartsch, Hollstein 104; Hind 267; New Hollstein 275 (this impression cited)
Stogdon 53
The Grolier Club, New York, Catalogue of Etchings and Dry Points by Rembrandt selected for Exhibition at the Grolier Club of the City of New York, New York, April-May 1900, cat. no. 66.

Brought to you by

Tim Schmelcher
Tim Schmelcher International Specialist

Lot Essay

This magnificent sheet has everything Rembrandt achieved as a printmaker in his later, experimental years: effortless draughtsmanship and compositional skills, complete command of the etching technique, daring and extensive use of drypoint, sulphur tinting and plate tone, a virtuoso combination of highly finished elements with rapidly sketched passages, perfectly realised here in one of the earliest pulls, charged with burr and printed on a beautiful piece of Japan paper.
Saint Jerome (circa 341- 420) was one of the four Fathers of the Roman Church, and translator of the Old and New Testaments into Latin. His translation, known as the Vulgate, was declared the official Latin Bible by the Council of Trent eleven centuries later. Saint Jerome, the scholar and the hermit saint, held a lifelong fascination for Rembrandt. He chose to depict him no less than seven times in etching alone, beginning in Leiden around 1629, and ending in the 1650's with the present plate.
Whereas the attributes of the penitent, skull and crucifix, were still evident in Saint Jerome beside a Pollard Willow (see lot 30), there is no reference to guilt or awareness of sin in the present work. This final Jerome is a contented old man, absorbed in his reading, shaded from the late afternoon sun by his wide-brimmed hat, with one of his slippers cast aside.
The buildings in the background, which gave this print its title, are reminiscent of those in Giorgione's and Titian's landscapes, of a type Rembrandt may have know from drawings or an engraving by Giulio and Domenico Campagnola. The lion, functioning here as the last and only attribute to identify the saint, is probably derived from an engraving by Cornelis Cort after Titian. Both these references show Rembrandt's knowledge of Venetian art.
Over the centuries, there has been a debate as to whether the print is finished or not, or rather whether the unfinished appearance was intentional. Comparison with a preparatory drawing suggests that he intended the foreground to be veiled in shadow, but as the etching developed, he decided to leave it light, thus keeping the tension between the swiftly drawn saint and the deep black shadows under the tree, in the dale below the farm buildings, and the heavy, almost abstract drypoint accent of the lion's mane. The burr, especially in this superbly rich and early impression, takes on a non-descriptive, compositional role, guiding the eye across the image from the lower left, across the saint to the lion and finally to the figures on the bridge.
In the 1650s, Rembrandt was using small supplies of exotic papers to explore the atmospheric effects different supports would have on the printed image. Nowhere is this more evident than in early impressions of Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape. All 14 recorded impressions of the first state are printed on Japanese paper, but of different varieties and tones. The present impression, printed on a warm-toned, light brown sheet evokes a late afternoon, as the heat of the day is beginning to dissipate and the sunlight has shifted from bright white to warm yellow.

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