The Descent from the Cross (Second Plate) Rembrandt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Rembrandt created this etching in 1633, in collaboration with the more experienced artist, Jan van Vliet. At this stage, he was still learning the techniques of this challenging medium and so required guidance.

We must remember that, as skilled as Rembrandt was, he was only in his twenties at this time and was far more knowledgeable in painting than etching. There was also an abundance of experienced engravers living fairly close by during the early to mid 17th century and so it made sense to draw on some of their knowledge in order to help him to achieve the levels that he desired. The artist was someone who required levels of near perfection within his career and so could simply invest the years that it would have taken to become a master of etching without the aid of others. The artwork found here was one of his earliest mass-produced prints and arrived a year before his painting of the same theme, which would followed a relatively similar layout.

A print from this artwork was sold for £4,000 in 2013, which gives us a great understanding of the value of each copy made. The information around this sale describes the design as being from the fifth and final state, meaning that the etching had received several alterations over time and that the print on sale was reflective of the final version. This is entirely normal but also underlines why the value of reproduction prints from his career are so much less valuable than the artist's original paintings. We rarely know how many were produced in each series, and their lack of uniqueness means that any real value is derived from their connection to such an important artist. The entry also suggests the publisher to be Lamoureux, though we have not yet found any additional information about this, likely French or Belgian, individual.

If we study the composition found here, we find Christ being taken down by a number of figures, some helping directly whilst others look on in concern for the man. A striking vertical display of light comes from above, perhaps a sign of his importance and the need to care for him. We see subtle lines depicting the city in the background, hidden partially be the night sky. Several climb on top of the cross, or up its sides, whilst a ladder helps these individuals to safely pull him down without danger of making his condition worst. The Descent from the Cross is a theme which delivers incredible symbolic power, where the community come together to help this stricken and mistreated man. Rubens produced his own version just a few years earlier than this etching, as well as the initial Elevation of the Cross. His subsequent return to form, against any realistic expectation, would serve as another example of his holy purpose.