Rembrandt van Rijn

Landscape with an Obelisk

Landscape with an Obelisk by Rembrandt van Rijn

Artwork Detail

Landscape as an independent subject within art was still a relatively new phenomenon in the seventeenth century. Rembrandt was drawn to the genre at times throughout his career and in this work we see him at his most inventive.

He depicts a location near Halfweg, which marks the halfway point between Amsterdam and Haarlem. The flatness of the country confronted the artist with the problem of how to create a sense of depth. He repeated the solution seen in this work many times; focusing on farm buildings or other such structures in the immediate foreground, thus making background elements seemingly recede. This is emphasised here by the relative scale of the tiny figure in the distance on the far right who can just be made out holding a scythe. Additionally, as already discussed, he made use of plate tone to further accentuate the distinction between the earth and its atmosphere.

Drypoint, whereby the needle incises directly into the copper giving a burr which prints lines of velvety-black, was also used in this etching. In its first state the drypoint prints much more darkly, but Rembrandt decided to reduce this effect scraping back some of the burr. It can, however, still be seen in this, the second state, in the clumps of grass along the bottom edge of the plate and in the cottage's shadows.

A unique feature of this print, seen in the small white arc on the obelisk and in the horizontal white line in the right foreground, occurred during printing. These are the result of printing creases which amongst other things are caused by overly damp paper or uneven pressure in the press. The work must have been flattened in the past, but such a treatment would not be carried out by conservators today as the consequent white spaces distract from the composition. (Masters of the Bitten Line, 2006)

Landscape with an Obelisk
Rembrandt van Rijn
Production date
circa 1650
etching with drypoint
84 x 163 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1961
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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