This etching is closely related to the celebrated Hundred Guilder Print created a few years earlier, in the 1640s. With this print, Rembrandt returned to the idea of a larger group scene with Christ at the centre, although here the setting is much more intimate. The gathering is smaller and in a more confined space, and Christ is only slightly taller than those around him - a contrast with the earlier print where he is a monumental figure. Instead of the highly accomplished preacher and healer, dealing simultaneously with several groups of people, Christ is now speaking directly and with humility to a much smaller group. He has the full attention of the crowd surrounding him, with the exception of the child lying on the ground and drawing his finger into the sand – a hidden tribute to Rembrandt’s own profession. To draw or to paint, Rembrandt seems to say, is his service to God. Depending on the presence of burr, collectors and dealers have traditionally distinguished impressions of this plate into ‘black sleeve’- impressions (with burr) and ‘white sleeve’-impressions (without burr). The present very fine ‘black sleeve’-impression is beautiful in its play of light and shade, and conveys a strong sense of depth, inviting the eye to wander across the crowd and past the figure of Christ through the gate in the background.
The present impression compares favourably to all first state-impressions in the British Museum (Cracherode, Salting, Slade).