Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) The Three Trees Etching, engraving and drypoint, 1643, a fine rich impression, printing with good contrasts, with considerable burr, the sulphur tinting clearly visible, on laid, watermark Foolscap with Five-Pointed Collar, with thread margins in a few places, otherwise trimmed to the platemark, skilfully set into a larger piece of laid, 213 x 279mm (8 3/8 x 10 7/8in)(PL)(unframed)
Lot 11*
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
(Dutch, 1606-1669)
The Three Trees
Sold for £ 65,000 (US$ 84,681) inc. premium

Lot Details
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
The Three Trees (Bartsch 212; New Hollstein 214)
Etching, engraving and drypoint, 1643, a fine rich impression, printing with good contrasts, with considerable burr, the sulphur tinting clearly visible, on laid, watermark Foolscap with Five-Pointed Collar, with thread margins in a few places, otherwise trimmed to the platemark, skilfully set into a larger piece of laid, 213 x 279mm (8 3/8 x 10 7/8in)(PL)(unframed)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Christie's, 13 July 1893, lot 450, Collection R.S. Holford (Lugt 2243)
    Christie's, 3 July 1992, lot 199A

    The Three Trees is Rembrandt's largest, most accomplished and admired landscape etching. It is an evocation of the Dutch countryside, a representation of man's subjugation to the elements and a masterly display of the artist's skill in rendering these elements through several media onto a copper plate.

    Rembrandt took inspiration from the countryside around Amsterdam and assembled various elements, such as the fields hedged by canals and dykes, to evoke the rural Dutch setting, so although the scene is not a real one, there would have been a sense of familiarity for Rembrandt's audience.

    He has added several scenes of people going about their everyday business, a fisherman and his wife, a cowherd with his flock, farmworkers in a wagon, an amorous couple in the undergrowth and an artist sketching on top of the hill, whilst on the left ominous-looking rain clouds are gathering. These small scenes of human drama serve to heighten the sense of foreboding seen in the depiction of the approaching thunderstorm. None of the figures appear troubled at the impending storm but it is clear that they are all subject to the forces of nature.

    The three trees, placed against a stark pale sky, dominate the image, and it has been suggested that these symbolize the three crosses of the crucifixion. Although there is no evidence for this, there is a palpable mood of sombre reflection which was perhaps a result, whether deliberate or not, of Rembrandt's grief over his wife Saskia's death a year earlier.

    For Rembrandt, etching was a fluid process, subtly changing from the sketch-like quality of his early works to the more mature painterly style seen here, achieved with closely grouped etched lines of varying density and ink left on the plate to emulate brushstrokes.

    Rembrandt had spent the past decade perfecting the art of chiaroscuro in his paintings and was aiming for the same level of perfection in his etchings and the variety of techniques allowed him to experiment to achieve the desired effect. The shadows and details were intensified with cross-hatching using a burin and drypoint needle, layers of tone were added to create depth and atmosphere and the grainy effect of sulphur tint was used to achieve a painterly quality.
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