The Baptism of the Eunuch

Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn (1606-1669), The Baptism of the Eunuch, etching and drypoint, 1641 (signed and dated in the plate). References: Bartsch 98, Hind 182, second state (of 2); Nowell-Usticke’s second state (e) (of 4).¬† In good condition, trimmed on the platemark all around, 6 11/16 x 8 3/8 inches (170 x 213 mm).

A fine, clear and early impression of this lightly etched plate.

On laid paper with a Foolscap With Seven-Pointed Collar, Hinterding’s C-a-a watermark (page 256, Rembrandt as an Etcher, Catalogue of Watermarks, volume 3, page 256). Hinterding identifies a number of Rembrandt lifetime impressions with this watermark including The Omval (B. 209 ii(2),National Gallery of Art); The Blindness of Tobit (B. 42i(2) Metropolitan Museum of Art); and also a number of impressions with closely related watermarks (cf. Hinterding, op. cit., volume II, p. 140 et. seq.).

The lifetime or early dating of this impression is further substantiated since it is before the appearance of the sharp diagonal¬† scratch to the right of the head of the standing man, said by Nowell-Eusticke, to be introduced in the Basan impressions.¬† But Nicholas Stogdon, describing a “near-contemporary” impression of this print notes “According to Nowell-Usticke the sharp diagonal scratch to the right of St. Philip’s head first appears in the P.G Basan edition; this can hardly be the case as it is already present in this near-contemporary impression (the papermaker is recorded as active in the 1680’s).” (Indeed, we have found this scratch on virtually all the impressions of this print to have appeared on the market in recent years.)

The story of the baptism of the eunuch is from Acts 8:26-39. While walking along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, St. Philip is compelled by the spirit of God to accompany the passing entourage of the Treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch serving under Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. Philip joins them and preaches to the official and his servants, and when they come to a small body of water the eunuch asks Philip to baptize him.