The Circumcision in the Stable


Rembrandt Harmensz Van Rijn (1606-1669), The Circumcision in the Stable, etching, 1654. References: Bartsch, Hollstein 47, White and Boon 47 I (of II), Hind 74. First state (of 3) (see discussion below),  [signed and dated twice in the plate] On laid paper with the Foolscap with seven pointed collar watermark (cf. Ash and Fletcher Foolscap with Seven-Pointed Collar C.b., page 117); Hinterding C-b. 3 3/4 x 5 3/4 inches.


Georg Rath (Lugt 1206)

Weber (Lugt 1383)

G. Bjorklund (Lugt 1138c)

A fine, strong sharp and clear impression.

Cataloguers White and Boon, Hind and Nowell Eusticke refer to square corners (as found in this impression) as characterizing the early first state impressions.  But in the recent (2000) volume Rembrandt the Printmaker Hinterding et al identify a new first state (cf. catalogue number 74) in which dots appear above the child, to be burnished in the next state, and the man at the right turning has yet to have his rounded shoulder straightened. And in their (Amsterdam) impression this new first state also has rounded corners.  In the present impression the dots above the child have been mostly burnished, the shoulder appears to be straightened, there is evidence of burnishing next to the “turning man,”  and the corners are square. (The rounded corners issue is not referred to in the Hinterding volume.) So given the latest research, this impression would be a second state after the newly discovered first.  It has yet to be shown how this new first state can have rounded corners, which become square in the second state, then rounded again in the last state.

Hinterding identifies several impressions of B 47 with this or a similar Foolscap with Seven-Pointed Collar watermarks: at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and at the Former Ritman Collection, London; also two coming from the Clement de Jonghe stock, one now at the Morgan Museum, the other in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam. He indicates that the impressions in the de Jonghe stock are “good, crisp and full of contrast, but will not have been printed before 1658.”

In White and Boon’s final (second) state the blank spaces in the upper middle and the upper far left were filled in; Hinterding et al note that that is probably a posthumous state, and that all the watermarks found in the White and Boon second state impressions have been posthumous.

The iconography for this print is a bit unusual, for generally the circumcision of Christ was depicted in a Temple, and indeed Rembrandt showed the circumcision in a Temple in an earlier etching, and in a drawing and a (now lost) painting. But theologians have pointed out that it was forbidden for a newborn’s mother to enter a Temple for 40 days after giving birth.

The strong shadowing lines at the right recall the dramatic lines of Rembrandt’s drypoint the Three Crosses, done the prior year.