Here we find an example of Rembrandt trying out the medium of etching for the very first time. As such, this piece can be considered somewhat crude in comparison to the later work that he produced, but it still holds a great significance in helping us to track his progress over time. He is known to have consulted Jan Pietersz Berendrecht initially and visited his workshop in order to learn more about the challenging techniques involved in etching and printmaking. He had only just finished his own apprenticeship at this stage, which underlines the ambitious nature of Rembrandt who was always looking for new ways of expressing his creativity as well as widening his oeuvre.
Rembrandt would use a needle to create his design into the film and is known to have worked fairly quickly, even in these early days. The artist quickly saw some incredible opportunities from working in this way and would use prints as a means to increase his income and also spread his signature across wider boundaries, which in turn would increase the number of commissioned paintings that he would receive. Indeed, during his own lifetime it was actually his etchings that contributed to his success more than his paintings, and it was only after his passing that historians placed a greater importance on the latter.
One of the prints produced from the etching can be found in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, whose website features a little more information on the artwork itself, as well as a back story around Rembrandt's work with etching more generally. The greater affordability of his printed etchings has enabled a wider audience to acquire items from Rembrandt's career, where his original paintings would simply have been too expensive. Indeed, you will find further copies of this particular design in other collections, some of which may have been from the same series, and some not. Rembrandt liked to review his prints at each stage, and then amend the etching accordingly for future proofs as the artwork evolved over time. The different stages would then vary in value too, and would normally be signified with notes on the back, written by the artist himself.