Art & Art History
This paper considers the paradoxes inherent in Rembrandt’s treatment of angels in his etched works where his choice of subject and medium directly addresses the fraught relation between the material and the spiritual, between reason and imagination, issues at the heart of Rembrandt’s artistic enterprise and central as well to the long reformation. Rembrandt’s etchings with angels draw particular attention to his craft, especially the distinction between the etching (on the plate) and the print (on paper) whereby the paper (as opposed to the plate) provides an unstable and fragile surface particularly suited to convey unsteadiness of all earthly things. Rembrandt’s attention to surface and to tonal effects beyond the etching needle becomes more pronounced after 1647 when he discovered Japanese paper. Two prints — Abraham and the Angels Eating (1656) and the so-called Dr. Faustus (1653) — exemplify what this increasingly experimental attitude and play of imagination meant for the artist’s understanding of Creation in general and angels in particular.
Levesque, Catherine, Rembrandt’s Etched Angels: Traces of the Divine (2015). Dutch Crossing, 39(2), 118-127.