Rembrandt lived and worked in Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Although most residents of Amsterdam during Rembrandt’s lifetime practiced Dutch Calvinism, the city was renowned for its welcoming spirit toward immigrants, especially the Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. Rembrandt never formally joined any church, but he was an astute student of the Bible. At times, he turned to Jewish theologians for insight into his depictions of Old Testament imagery. He also hired models from the Jewish community and received commissions from Jewish patrons.
This exhibition contains 21 etchings by Rembrandt and one drawing by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman (Dutch, 1583-1633). These works highlight the artist’s nuanced relationship with Amsterdam’s citizens of the Jewish faith and the keen insights Rembrandt brought to interpretations of Old Testament Bible stories.
Rembrandt’s legacy as an etcher is characterized by the new and innovative techniques he introduced to printmaking. He broke with longstanding, traditional depictions of biblical narratives; instead, Rembrandt added emotional and psychological depth to his subjects through expressive faces, dramatic body language, and his bold use of shadow and light.