Eye Candy for today: Rembrandt’s Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan, etching - Rembrandt van Rijn
The Good Samaritan, Rembrandt van Rijn

OK, so the defecating dog was a source of some amusement back in art school, but once you get past that, this etching is just mind-bogglingly superb — a tour-de-force of drawing and the mediums of etching and drypoint.

This was made after one of Rembrandt’s own paintings (though there is some question as to whether the painting is entirely by Rembrandt’s hand). The painting, also titled The Good Samaritan, is in the Wallace Collection in London.

This copy of the etching is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (more info here). It is on a sheet roughly 10×8″ (26x21cm).

Since the etching was drawn from the painting, and then printed, we see a reverse image of the painting. Where the dog came from, I don’t know — neither it nor the other foreground elements appear in the painting — but Rembrandt loved to pick up on those little everyday details of life in his drawings and etchings.

5 Replies to “Eye Candy for today: Rembrandt’s Good Samaritan”

  1. Rembrandt signed with the initials RHL 1630, meaning Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Leiden, Rembrandt, son of Harmen (Gerritsz van Rhijn, the miller) from Leiden, whilst in Amsterdam he signed with Rembrandt fecit.
    He was obviously not too keen to copy the chickens near the water well. They look pathetic. =)

  2. Always been curious about the inks used in his day. There seems to be a range of dark values in the ink lines themselves, beyond the results of depth of etch or dry point marks. If this was a direct drawing using pen and ink, one would be using a few values of ink washes, rather than straight from the bottle.
    Perhaps it is how the prints have aged?


    1. Interesting observation. Thanks, Bill.

      I’m not sure how printing inks may have varied from drawing inks in Rembrandt’s time (I’m sure some scholar has studied it somewhere.)

      I do know the way a plate is inked, wiped and pressed can have an impact on a particular impression. Some areas could be wiped more or less aggressively after inking. Also drypoint leaves a burr on the side of the incised line that can be controlled by the angle of the point, and that wears down in successive pressings. This also affects how much ink a given line will hold. I’ve read that most of Rembrandt’s plates on which he used drypoint don’t show a drypoint burr, but the burr only lasts for short print runs, so I don’t know if he used that to effect. I think that how a plate is wiped, however, is particularly critical in the character of drypoint lines.

      Another factor may be, as you suggest, the way the print has aged. Also, despite the best efforts of those responsible for the Met’s superb website, we’re still up against the limitations of photographic reproduction of the image.

      Also interesting to look at some of Whistler’s drypoints: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/372546

  3. I would have to agree with Charley. The delicate values appear to be nothing more than a masterful control of the medium.

    A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to see thirty or so of Rembrandt’s etchings at the Ackland Art Museum in NC. The passages of fine lines were so small and delicate that very little ink was deposited in the impression. This resulted in slight, transparent amounts of ink, in contrast to the more solidly printed passages.

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