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Christ Preaching (La Petite tombe)

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn

European Art

This image of Christ preaching in a passageway demonstrates Rembrandt’s expressive manner of contrasting lightly etched areas and toned paper with velvety black drypoint burr, as well as his ability to humanize the spiritual. The haloed Christ is spotlighted, with his palms illuminated against a dark background. A bright, unetched ledge beneath his feet suggests an open space over which he is levitating.

The people surrounding Christ are variously shown in inky shadow or bathed in his radiance, and all are individually characterized. By including just the feet of another individual at the lower right, Rembrandt encourages viewers to imagine themselves as part of this audience. The only figures who take no notice of the divine moment unfolding around them are the sleeping baby in the foreground and the boy nearby, who draws in the dirt with his finger—perhaps referencing Rembrandt’s own profession. This observation of timeless childhood behavior introduces a note of gentle humor to the momentous event.

The title La petite tombe was first used in the eighteenth century to refer to Nicolaes de La Tombe, an art dealer who probably commissioned the work from Rembrandt.
MEDIUM Etching and drypoint on laid paper
  • Place Made: Netherlands
  • DATES ca. 1652
    DIMENSIONS Plate: 6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in. (15.6 x 20.6 cm) Sheet: 6 3/8 x 8 3/16 in. (16.2 x 20.8 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 41.1106
    STATE Only state
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Harold K. Hochschild
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669). Christ Preaching (La Petite tombe), ca. 1652. Etching and drypoint on laid paper, Plate: 6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in. (15.6 x 20.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Harold K. Hochschild, 41.1106 (Photo: , 41.1106_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 41.1106_PS9.jpg., 2019
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