The Fourth Oriental Head


etching; 166 x 144 mm (6 9/16 x 5 5/8 inches)

Bartsch 289, White/Boon second state (of three); Hind 134; The New Hollstein 152 third state (of six)

foolscap with seven-pointed collar (Hinterding, vol. 2, p. 139; vol. 3, pp. 252f. ill.)

Pietro Giuseppe and Francesco Santo Vallardi, Milan (Lugt 2478)
sale, Klipstein & Kornfeld, Berne, June 8, 1961, lot 108
Craddock & Barnard, London
private collection, USA

A fine impression, showing subtle tone along the edges of the plate; with margins all round. The first state, newly described by Erik Hinterding and Jaco Rutgers in The New Hollstein, is unique; for the second state they list merely five impressions; and even the present third state is not common.
Rembrandt’s etching belongs to a group of four prints traditionally known as The Oriental Heads, all of them to various degrees free copies made in or around 1635 after prints by Jan Lievens. The two artists had worked in close vicinity with each other until Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631. Lievens was actually the first to take up etching, probably as early as 1625 – whereas Rembrandt’s first experiments in printmaking date only from the second half of 1628. Three of Rembrandt’s Oriental Heads reinterpret prints from the seven “tronies” that Lievens etched around 1631. This print, the so-called Fourth Oriental Head, is copied (in reverse) after an unrelated print made by Lievens at the same time. For many years scholars accepted the hypothesis, put forward by Carel Vosmaer in his 1868 monograph on the artist, that all four of Rembrandt’s Oriental Heads had been executed by a pupil and then worked on by Rembrandt himself; however as Erik Hinterding notes, “no difference between the styles of pupil and master can be discerned in the prints, and nowadays the heads are considered to be all Rembrandt’s own work” (Hinterding, Lugt Collection, vol. 1, p. 523, no. 213).

While Rembrandt, without referring to Lievens, indicated on three of these plates that the image had been “geretuckeered,” which, as Hinterding infers, can mean it was either retouched or improved (ibid.), the Fourth Oriental Head does not appear to have received either treatment. Rembrandt’s print copies Lievens’ etching in reverse and at the same time introduces some notable differences. The dress and the hat follow the model extremely faithfully but Rembrandt changes the face, making it more expressive and thereby suggesting an overall more distinctive personality. The weak chin and puffy cheeks of Lievens’s subject are masked by a mustache and beard. The eyes are also significantly altered: the rather vapid bug-eyed expression of Lievens’s sitter had now become the melancholy gaze of a rather handsome young man. By combining closely copied elements with clearly recognizable changes, Rembrandt manages to show – one might even say: show-off his own artistic talent against that of his Leiden colleague.

(offered together with:)

Jan Lievens (1607 Leiden – Amsterdam 1674)

Bust of a Young Man, Facing Right ca. 1631

etching; 148 x 128 mm (5 7/8 x 5 inches)
signed in the plate at lower left I Livens; with the publisher’s address at top left Franciscus vanden Wijngaerde ex[udit]

Bartsch 26; Hollstein 44 fourth (final) state

watermark : small countermark (indecipherable)

Franz Gawet, Vienna (Lugt 1070 with the date [1]839)
Thomas Graf, Berlin (Lugt 1092a)
private collection, USA

A very good impression of the final state in good, untreated condition; thread margins all round.

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