Amsterdam, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1639. Broadsheet. 43.1 x 33.6 (print size 39.2 x 31.0 cm)
The Death of the Virgin ranks amongst Rembrandt's most impressive and typical etchings, especially among his works dealing with scenes from the New Testament. "About 1628 Rembrandt made his first etchings. Unlike drawing, etching is not a natural counterpart to painting, and his decision to begin etching meant taking a significant new direction in his career. Much of his international fame during his lifetime would be based on the widely disseminated prints he produced from the 300 or so etchings he made over the course of his career. Analysis of Rembrandt’s early etched oeuvre gives the impression that he was basically self-taught in this field. Whereas Rembrandt’s contemporaries adopted the regular, almost stylized manner of applying lines and hatchings that could be found in the much more common copper engravings, Rembrandt almost from the outset used a much freer technique, which at first strikes the viewer as uncontrolled, even nervous. Thanks to this new technique, however, he succeeded in developing a method of working that appears partly sketchlike, yet which could also be described as painterly. The painterly quality of his etchings is mainly due to the way in which he achieved an extraordinarily suggestive play of light and dark and how he created a convincing sense of atmospheric space using different methods of hatching. The revolutionary change that took place in Rembrandt’s style between about 1627 and 1629 involved the role of light. By concentrating the light and by exaggerating the diminuendo of the force of light in relation to the distance from the light source, Rembrandt arrived at what could crudely be termed 'spotlight' effects. In order to create convincing light effects, Rembrandt-like Caravaggio, his great Italian precursor in this field-had to compensate by leaving large areas shrouded in shadow." (Brittanica). A fine etching, being the third and last state, with a remarkable wide margin. Very often Rembrandt's etchings are trimmed to the margin, but this copy escaped from such barbarism. One hardly noticeable pinpoint hole, otherwise fine. In all an excellent, clean copy. Provenance: William Sharp of Manchester, a friend of Sir Mark Masterman Sykes (1771-1823), one of the great connoisseurs of the period who owned nearly 100,000 prints. Sharp's collection was sold at Sotheby's on March 1st, 1878 and 11 following days. According to Lugt, the collector's identity may also be that of William Sharp (1795-1881) of Enwood Court, Handsworth, near Birmingham 'a lead and glass merchant originally from Manchester', whom Waagen met during a visit to the midlands in 1854, or perhaps his father; Collection of Sir Lawrence Gowing (1918-1991). Hollstein XIX, B99 (p. 54).