May 24, 2010
ORIGINAL 1639 REMBRANDT ETCHING.
The Famous “OLD MAN SHADING HIS EYES WITH HIS HAND”
REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN 1606-1669. “OLD MAN SHADING HIS EYES WITH HIS HAND” (BARTSCH, HOLLSTEIN 259; HIND 169; BIORKLUND 38-3) etching with drypoint, circa 1639, a fine, sharp impression, 131 x 102 mm.
Why Rembrandt left this enigmatic print unfinished had been the subject of considerable scholarly debate. Rembrandt broke from his usual practice of developing the setting before the figure; here the figure was attended to first and left floating amidst a cloud of loosely drawn lines. Some scholars have speculated that Rembrandt may have been commercially motivated, purposely leaving a print unfinished for a market that commanded premiums for early proofs and first states. However, it is more likely that an artist interested in human nature, the frailty of man, the effect and importance of light, and the vulnerability of sight, may have been merely interested in depicting the simple beauty of an old man blinded by the harsh sun.