...'also here is the rarest print published by Rembrandt, in which Christ is healing the sick, and I know that in Holland [it] has been sold various times for 100 guilders and more; and it is as large as this sheet of paper, very fine and lovely, but ought to cost 30 guilders. It is very beautiful and pure.'
So states Jan Meyssens of Antwerp to Charles Vanden Bosch, Bishop of Bruges, in a letter dated 9 February 1654. This extract provides a clue as to how this print gained its nickname: the print was so desirable that only a few years after its creation it was exchanging hands for the exceptionally high price of 100 guilders.
'Christ healing the Sick' was a significant turning point in Rembrandt's development as an etcher; it is his first major work in which light and shadow were used to obtain such expressive power. By placing four incidents from separate strands of narrative in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Rembrandt was embarking on an ambitious and complex task to unite all elements harmoniously. The groupings and technique become increasingly complex as the eye moves from left to right, with a transition from light to intense dark whilst retaining Christ as the central focal point of the composition. The image is almost at the risk of falling into two discrete halves: the left sketchy and bright, the right densely worked and dark. Yet through careful composition and the introduction of a halftone Rembrandt managed to balance the image and created a continuous tableau. It is his most 'painterly', most ambitious and possibly his most sought-after print.
The present impression was printed by Captain William Baillie (circa 1724-1810), who in 1775 acquired the heavily worn plate and, being an engraver himself, reworked it before printing a limited run of 100 impressions before cutting the plate into three from which he printed separate images. The quality of Baillie's impressions is remarkable and his reworking of the 'Hundred Guilder Print' is one of the rare cases of a successful restoration of a printing plate.