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The descent from the cross: a sketch.
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The descent from the cross: a sketch.
Work Type
prints, etchings, drypoints, works on paper
etching and drypoint
Image: 148mm (height), 115mm (length), Support: 153mm (height), 116mm (length)

During his lifetime, Rembrandt's extraordinary skills as a printmaker were the main source of his international fame. Unlike his oil paintings, prints travelled light and were relatively cheap. For this reason, they soon became very popular with collectors not only within, but also beyond the borders of the Netherlands. It also explains why, in later centuries, they were affordable for collectors such as Bishop Ditlev Monrad and Wellington collector and philanthropist Sir John Ilott, who presented 37 Rembrandts to the National Art Gallery. Te Papa also owns another etching of the same theme, The descent from the Cross by torchlight (1654), presented to the Colonial Museum by Monrad in 1869.

In this etching, the nailed body of the recently dead Christ is in the process of being taken down from the cross. A man on a ladder, rendered in outline only, is releasing his right hand; the left hand has just been released. A massive, presumably linen, cloth holds holds the body under both arms and will used to lower it. Numerous figures are gathered at the foot of the cross; the traditional skull and bone are on the ground - Golgotha, which means 'Skull Place' was the immediate location of the Crucifixion. In the left foreground, the Virgin Mary has fainted, and is supported by another woman, probably the Mary Magdalen.

This impression is from the only state of this unfinished etching.

References: New Hollstein Dutch 204, only state; Hollstein Dutch 82, only state.

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art August 2017

Collection: Art
Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1963
Accession Number
Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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