Jan Asselyn, Painter ('Krabbetje'), Presumed date: 1647
The technical mastery and inventiveness with which Rembrandt made his 300 or so etchings was already recognised in his lifetime and his prints were widely sought after. Baldinucci, the famous Florentine biographer, praised Rembrandt’s ‘highly bizarre technique, which he invented for etching and which was his alone, being neither used by others or seen elsewhere’ (1686). Rembrandt died in 1669.
State IV. Presumed date 1647. Signed in the plate on the lower right hand corner.
Born in Leiden in 1606, Rembrandt was to become the most important artist of the Dutch Golden Age and, as summed up by Gombrich in The Story of Art, ‘one of the greatest painters who ever lived’. But it is also Rembrandt’s unparalleled skills and achievements as an etcher that has made him a continuous source of inspiration to scholars and collectors alike, as well as a profound influence on many later artists, including Francisco de Goya, James McNeill Whistler and Pablo Picasso. The technical mastery and inventiveness with which Rembrandt made his 300 or so etchings was already recognised in his lifetime and his prints were widely sought after. The very fact that his graphic work could be reproduced meant that it was his etchings, rather than his drawings or paintings, which led to his international reputation at the time.
In spite of his artistic success, Rembrandt was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1656 and his house and possessions were put under auction. Fortunately, Rembrandt's copper etching plates were not amongst the items sold, and for a while their whereabouts were unknown. After Rembrandt’s death in 1669, the first record of the plates appeared in an inventory of his estate created by his friend, the print dealer Clement de Jonghe. The plates then passed through several hands but it wasn’t until the latter half of the 18th century that the first significant posthumous impressions of the existing copperplates were made. This was under the ownership of Parisian dealer Claude Henri Watelet, who was a very skilled etcher himself and was apparently the first to rework some of the plates. It was in 1786 that the Parisian printer and publisher Pierre-Francois Basan acquired around 80 etching plates by Rembrandt from the estate Watelet. The so-called Basan Receuil was first published in 1789 and constituted a landmark not only in the history of Rembrandt scholarship, but also in the development of the academic study of art. For the first time a volume containing an overview of Rembrandt's work printed from his own plates was available to the collecting public. It was, in many respects, the first illustrated catalogue of an artist's work. After Basan died in 1797, his son, Henri Louis Basan, inherited the plates and published further collections of Rembrandt etchings in 1807/8. The H.L. Basan edition seldom appears for sale and we are truly delighted to have acquired this collection.
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