The commission for this portrait was negotiated by Rembrandt's son Titus, who, with Hendrickje, had taken control of Rembrandt's commercial activities in 1660. Jan Antonides van der Linden (1609-64) had been a professor at Leiden University, where Rembrandt had studied. The commission came from a publisher who wanted it to illustrate a collected edition of Hippocrates' writings. Whether from personal pride, or a desire to show that he still had the skills necessary, or perhaps from financial necessity, Rembrandt took it on. The five states attest to the trouble it took him, but the end result is not particularly successful - the background foliage is only vaguely described, the facial expression is ambiguous, and the lower left is unresolved.
The print is an ill-deserved end to such an illustrious career, and to add insult to injury, it was rejected. It was probably doomed from the start as an engraving had been stipulated - engravings tend to stand up to the rigours of repeated printing far better than a delicately etched plate.
This lot is sold with a counterproof. Counterproofs are made by placing a freshly printed impression, with the ink still wet, back through the press face down on a clean sheet of paper. The image is reproduced, less strong, but with the advantage of being in reverse - i.e. in the same direction as the plate. Counterproofs were often used by printmakers to check the progress of a plate. This pair, almost certainly unique, was once owned by William Esdaile, who assembled one of the finest private collections of Rembrandt prints between 1790 and his death in 1837. His large collection was dispersed at Christie's in 1838.