The etched portraits of the late 1650's are arguably Rembrandt's greatest and most elaborate. During this period he depicted a number of fellow artists, collectors, publishers and craftsmen – men whom he respected and was friendly with. While his family portraits are mostly quick, spontaneous sketches, these more formal portraits are complex investigations into the character of his sitters. The present portrait of the goldsmith Jan Lutma is perhaps one of the most captivating portraits of all.
Jan Lutma (circa 1584-1669) was one of the leading goldsmiths and jewellers in Amsterdam at the time, and a great collector of prints – his son Jan Lutma the Younger was an etcher. There is a gentle pride in the way the aging craftsman presents himself, seated in a large armchair, surrounded by the accoutrements and products of his profession: a hammer and punches are placed on the table next to him; there is a chased silver bowl; and in his right hand he holds a figurine or candlestick.
Yet Rembrandt shows him sunk deep in thought, almost unaware or simply uninterested in the act of portrayal. His eyes are shadowed and half-closed, attesting to the fact that his eyesight was beginning to wane. This work is testament to Rembrandt’s skill and deeply considered approach to his sitter; he conveys the sense of gentle resignation, as Lutma’s passion for his work is threatened by his age and failing eyesight – an issue of some concern to Rembrandt himself.
It appears that New Hollstein's second and third states are indeed identical and that the inscription underneath the window and the barely legible one in the densely worked area at lower right were in fact engraved at the same time. What we do know with certainty is that François Lutma's address at lower right had been added in Rembrandt's lifetime, since he outlived François by five years.