Menasseh ben Israel., result 1 of 1
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, two centuries later, they were affordable for Bishop Ditlev Monrad, who donated this example to the Colonial Museum in 1869.
The traditionally identified sitter of this portrait etching was an important one. Manoel Dias Soeiro (1604-57), better known by his Hebrew name Menasseh/ Manasseh ben Israel also, Menasheh ben Yossef ben Yisrael, was a Portuguese rabbi, kabbalist, writer, diplomat, printer and publisher, and founder of the first Hebrew printing press (named Emeth Meerets Titsma`h) in Amsterdam in 1626. In 1655, Menasseh came to England from Amsterdam to (successfully) petition the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, to readmit Jews to the country. Menasseh had moved to Amsterdam as a child; the city was an important centre of Jewish life and culture at the time, and Jewish sitters are common in Rembrandt's oeuvre.
The traditional identification of the sitter, first passed on by the French art and luxury goods dealer Edmé-François Gersaint in 1751, has recently been disputed. The sitter has alternatively been identified as Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira, Nicolaes de Bye and Samuel Smijters. However, the traditional identification seems no less speculative than the more recently proposed ones, not in the least because Gersaint has proven to be a reliable chronicler. (New Hollstein, Rembrandt vol. II, p. 3).
This impression is from the second of five states (the first two by Rembrandt). The left side of the nose is clearly defined and the outline of the left side of the sitter's face is straightened; it is before addition of shading by another hand. Previously, it was catalogued as third state.
New Hollstein Dutch 156, 2nd of 5 states; Hollstein Dutch 269, 2nd of 3 states
Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art September 2017
Now viewing Menasseh ben Israel.