Lines and Colors art blog

Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt’s Omval

Rembrandt etching, The Omval Rembrandt etching, The Omval (details)

The Omval, Rembrandt van Rijn, etching and drypoint, roughly 7 x 9 inches (19×23 cm); this printing is in the collection of the Metropolitan museum of Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image.

Rembrandt was, in my opinion, the greatest master of etching and drypoint in history. Though many of his etchings were of a religious nature, here he has fun with a naturalistic riverfront scene.

The Omval is the name for a well-known spot along the Amstel River. A glorious tree dominates the scene; behind it we see sailboats and what appears to be a passenger ferry on the water. Across the river, we see elements of a town and a mill.

A man stands on the shore, facing away from us and toward the ferry, perhaps in conversation with someone on it.

What we don’t see at first are a pair of lovers that Rembrandt has nestled in the shadows of the great tree (images above, second from top).

The woman is facing to the left, her hand rests on her dress. The man sits behind her, to the left. It appears as though he has his arm raised above the woman’s head, his sleeve obscuring his own face.

Rembrandt has left much to the imagination, both visually and in possible implied narrative. We’re left to wonder if there is a relation between the lovers and the man on the shore, or perhaps someone on the ferry. We can also imagine they’re doing their very best to keep quiet.

The Omval, MetMuseum