The Omval
etching and drypoint
on laid paper, watermark Double-headed Eagle (Hinterding C.b.a)
a brilliant, early impression of the exceedingly rare first state (of three)
one of only three known impressions of this state
with rich accents of burr in the tree and lower left foreground, and remarkable clarity and depth
printing with a light plate tone, the sulphur tint in the blank sky very pronounced
with thread margins or trimmed on the platemark
in very good condition
Plate & Sheet 186 x 227 mm.
With Alfred Strölin Sr. (1871-1954), Paris and Lausanne (without mark and not in Lugt); then by descent to his son Alfred Strölin Jr. (1912-1974) Paris (without mark and not in Lugt); his sale, Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern, 8 June 1961, lot 82 (cited in Hollstein).
Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern, 9 June 1978, lot 205 (CHF 37,500; to Laube for Josefowitz).
Sam Josefowitz (Lugt 6094); acquired at the above sale in 1978; then by descent to the present owners.
Bartsch, Hollstein 209 (this impression cited); Hind 210; New Hollstein 221 (this impression cited)
Stogdon 89

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Tim Schmelcher
Tim Schmelcher International Specialist

Lot Essay

This large and important landscape is one of the great rarities in the Josefowitz Collection: it is one of only three known impressions of the first state. The other two are at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The setting for this intriguing work is a peninsula bordered on one side by the Amstel River, known then and now as De Omval, after a ruin that had once stood there (omvallen means 'falling down' in Dutch). It is directly south of the centre of Amsterdam and would have been familiar to Rembrandt from his many walks beyond the bounds of the old city. Apart from this important etching, he sketched this location in at least three drawings, all from the early 1650s.
The scenery is complex, almost busy, as one’s eye shifts from the prospect of a shipyard and a windmill on the far bank, to the enigmatic figure with a stylish hat seen from behind in the middle ground, and finally to the ancient, gnarled tree in the foreground to the left. Easily overlooked are the two lovers hidden in the dense foliage to the left of the tree’s base. Cynthia Schneider, amongst other commentators, linked hidden erotic subjects to events in the artist’s personal life during the early 1640s. Shortly after the death of his wife Saskia in 1642, Rembrandt had an affair with his son Titus' nursemaid Geertje Dircx, who was soon succeeded both as nanny and lover by Hendrickje Stoffels (Schneider, 1990, p. 196-9). It is also possible that this was known as a meeting place for lovers, at the edge of town and with less of a risk of being seen, and that the artist's local contemporaries would have understood the reference and found it amusing.
Either way, we can agree with Schneider that with this print 'Rembrandt combined the idyllic and the industrial, the rural and the urban, to create a thoroughly modern pastoral. The couple, lost in their own world, provide a poignant counterpart to Rembrandt's slice of Amsterdam scenery…In The Omval he literally created a Dutch Arcadia.’ (ibid.)
The Omval is one of the first instances of extensive use of drypoint in a landscape etching by Rembrandt. From the present, brilliant impression of the first state, full of heavy burr in the tree and the lower right background, it is clear that he struggled to integrate the drypoint work into the etched overall composition. Although these accents of burr seem unbalanced, they have an energising effect on the image. From a modern perspective, the drypoint work in this print functions as a welcome irritant by directing the eyes restlessly from one point to another across the sheet. Rembrandt would use drypoint in a similar, yet arguably more accomplished way in some of his later masterpieces, including Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape (see lot 31) or even the portrait of Arnout Tholinx (see page 6). In very fine, early examples such as the ones presented in this catalogue, and indeed in The Omval here, the burr takes on a compositional function, rather than a descriptive one, and instill the image with a nervous tension that seems to come directly from the artist's hand. (see Schneider, 1900, p.196-9)

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