The Shell, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
The Shell
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Platte / Stein
98 x 131 mm
110 x 146 mm
Inventory Number
Object Number
5905 D
Ancient Holdings (Collections J. F. Städel or J. G. Grambs)
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

Contrary to what we are told by the traditional title, this rare etching does not depict a shell but a conch which must have made its way to Amsterdam from Eastern Asia. Rembrandt had a collection of such exotica, which occasionally appear in still-life paintings of the seventeenth century as “artworks of nature”. Technically speaking, Rembrandt’s manner of proceeding in the execution of this print was unusual. He began by rendering the shell itself in drypoint; then he used the etching and engraving techniques to create the surrounding space. This explains why the surroundings appear a tiny bit duller than the deep-black drypoint work. The snail shell takes on a plasticity and brilliance that lend it a strangely intense presence.

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