Rembrandt van Rijn

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion by Rembrandt van Rijn

Artwork Detail

The Crucifixion: Small Plate

The composition of this etching breaks with the symmetrical design usually employed in depictions of the crucifixion. The placement of the cross off-centre and on an angle to the picture plane heightens the drama and emotion of the scene, focusing the viewer’s attention on the significant characters involved in the event and their personal agony. The scene adheres to the description of the crucifixion according to John. The Virgin Mary has fainted, and is slumped almost lifeless in the arms of another. Behind her John, his face full of anguish, stands pleading. Mary Magdalene, her eyes heavenward and hands clasped, appears at the base of the cross. The central figure given his prominent position is likely to be Joseph of Arimathea. His presence foreshadows the miraculous events that were to follow Christ’s crucifixion.

'The Crucifixion' demonstrates the sketchy style for which Rembrandt is so well known, the figure of the Virgin in particular is created using just a summary of lines and the background is only very loosely indicated. This is the result of using a soft ground, rather than a hard ground, on the etching plate. This gave Rembrandt greater freedom and fluidity of line as the ground was less resistant to the etching needle.

Jane Davidson – 2004

The Crucifixion
Rembrandt van Rijn
Production date
circa 1635
101 x 701 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2004
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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