Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
drypoint, Sheet - h:37.50 w:44.00 cm (h:14 3/4 w:17 5/16 inches). Bequest of Ralph King and Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1959.241
Like Christ Presented to the People, Rembrandt’s Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves is also
executed entirely in drypoint. Because of the delicacy of the technique, the copper plate was worn after the artist printed about 40 impressions of the first three states. In order to continue using the plate, Rembrandt reworked it, changing the image somewhat.
In the fourth state, slashing strokes obscure the spectators visible in the earlier version, creating a
tenebrous setting that focuses attention on Christ bathed in celestial light. Although drypoint is an
inherently linear medium, Rembrandt used it to obtain tonal qualities associated with painting. The
blackness becomes an active force that threatens to extinguish the light of Christ-a literal illustration of
the Evangelist Luke’s description of the event that brought "a darkness over all the earth."