The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634

  • Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669

Etching, engraving, and drypoint printed in black ink on cream laid paper

  • Framed: Sheet (trimmed to platemark): 10 5/16 × 8 5/8 inches (26.2 × 21.9 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Alan, Marianne and Marc Schwartz Fund, Graphic Arts Council Purchase Fund, Matilda R. Wilson Fund, and Josephine and Ernest Kanzler Fund

2001.1

Department

Prints, Drawings & Photographs

  • Religion
  • Drypoint
  • Drypoint
  • Etching (printing process)
  • Etching (printing process)
  • Engraving (incising)
  • Engraving (incising)
  • Paper (fiber product)
  • Ink
  • Figures (representations)
  • Cattle
  • Sheep
  • Angel (spirit)

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds was meant to demonstrate Rembrandt’s unparalleled abilities as a printmaker. By the time Rembrandt first took up an etching needle the medium was already a century old, but the artist elevated etching to unprecedented heights of achievement. He was constantly experimenting with technique. Here he developed the darkest areas of the image first, creating a varied blackness from which the light-filled vignettes emerge. Virtually nothing in this elaborate scene is drawn in outline. Instead, a dense web of cross-hatching conveys volume and form. The print also speaks to Rembrandt’s gifts as a storyteller. The action is conveyed through dramatic lighting and gesture: the heavens open with a burst of putti surrounding the Dove of the Holy Spirit, while below an angel conveys the news of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, who react with alarm while their terrified animals scatter and fall. The figure in a hat looking directly out at the viewer recalls Rembrandt’s many self-portraits. From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)

Signed, Marks, Inscriptions

Signed, in plate, lower right: Rembrandt

Watermark:[Arms of Württemberg] Oval stamp, in purple ink, lower left, verso: FELIX | SOMARY Stamp, in purple ink, lower left, verso: MIETHKE & WAW(RA) | ANTIQUARIAT WIE(N) Unidentified circular stamp, in black ink, lower left, verso: [see remarks] Circular monogram stamp, in blue ink, lower left, verso: J.D. Böhm Rectangular stamp, in blue ink, lower left, verso: J.D. Böhm

Inscribed, in black ink, verso: lower left, verso: J.D. Böhm Inscribed, in faint brown ink, lower left, verso: Sigmd Bermann md D'estpes, Vienne 1833 Inscribed, in pencil, lower center, verso: D 44/III Inscribed, in pencil, lower left and lower right corner, verso: [notations]

Provenance

Unidentified monogram; J. Sigmund Bermann (Vienna, Austria); 1865, Joseph Daniel Böhm sale, lot 613 (Vienna, Austria) 1926, Miethke & Wawra Antiquariat with Gilhofer and Ranschburg (Wien, Austria); June 1926, Felix Somary (Zurich, Switzerland); until 1985, heirs of Felix Somary; 1986-1999, private collection (Switzerland). 2001-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Published References

From Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Prints and Drawings from 1550 to 1700. Exh. cat., DIA. Detroit, 2020, p. 12.

Rights Status

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634, etching, engraving, and drypoint printed in black ink on cream laid paper. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Alan, Marianne and Marc Schwartz Fund, Graphic Arts Council Purchase Fund, et al., 2001.1.