De Kroniek jaargang 2021
After relaunching the Kroniek in digital form for 2020, we are very pleased to follow up with the issue for 2021, with four new articles devoted to various topics related to Rembrandt and his circle of pupils, friends and followers.
All four focus on recent finds. We lead with Steven Nadler and Victor Tiribás’s discovery concerning Menasseh ben Israel’s Piedra Gloriosa, the publication for which Rembrandt produced a series of etchings. They carefully work out the implications for our interpretation of the relationship between artist and scholar. From the Amsterdam City Archive, Mark Ponte and Eric Schmitz present a newly-discovered Rembrandt document revealing a previously unknown portrait commission, and introduce us to the players involved. The museum’s recent exhibition on Hansken the elephant prompted new insights by Leonore van Sloten into an elephant drawing and the role of existing imagery in Rembrandt’s workshop. And lastly, David de Witt makes the case for adding a well-known drawing of an artist’s atelier to the oeuvre of Cornelis Bisschop, removing it from that of Jan Lievens. This issue rounds off with two In memoria, in which we bid farewell to two important scholars, C. Willemijn Fock and Ernst van de Wetering. Both had, in different ways, a decisive impact on the museum.
The Editorial Board: Erik Hinterding, Epco Runia, Leonore van Sloten, Ilona van Tuinen and David de Witt
P.S. Would you like to contribute an article or share a wonderful discovery? Send an email to David de Witt for further information: email@example.com. Comments, additions, criticism or compliments? These are also welcome.
Auteurs: Steven Nadler and Victor Tiribás
Titel: Rembrandt’s Etchings for Menasseh ben Israel’s Piedra Gloriosa: A Mystery Solved?
Scholars have long puzzled over the etchings by Rembrandt that appear in some extant copies of Piedra Gloriosa, a messianic treatise by Menasseh ben Israel published in Amsterdam in 1655. Do the illustrations represent a true collaboration between the artist and the rabbi? Why do the illustrations appear in only some of the extant volumes? Perhaps the most perplexing question of all is why do a few of the extant copies contain illustrations that representationally (if not aesthetically) fairly duplicate those by Rembrandt but by a different artist and with at least one very significant modification?
In this article, though we briefly address the first question and review the current state of scholarly opinion, we are concerned primarily with second and third questions. How can we account for the fact that most extant volumes contain no illustrations at all; and what might explain the substitution of a new set of illustrations for those by Rembrandt? We show that a recently uncovered document in the record book of the Amsterdam Portuguese-Jewish community sheds some new light on these matters and may point toward a plausible explanation for the switch.
Auteur: Mark Ponte and Eric Schmitz
Titel: Rembrandt paints master carpenter Jacob Wesselsz Wiltingh. An unknown Rembrandt from the archive of the Amsterdam notaries
The painted oeuvre of Rembrandt has to a certain extent been delimited by the Rembrandt Research Project. Although the conclusions there formulated are not always shared by all, the discussion generally concerns works that are long known. The resurfacing of a completely unknown painting is extremely rare. Likewise, the emergence of an archival discovery is not an everyday occurrence. The archival researches of Abraham Bredius (1855-1946), Isabella van Eeghen (1913-1996), Bas Dudok van Heel (1938) and others have unearthed a rich treasure trove concerning the life and work of Rembrandt and his milieu. The very extensive Amsterdam Notarial Archive consistently showed itself to be a nearly inexhaustible source for drawing historical links and making new discoveries (fig. 1). Of course, new research also encountered known material. Dudok van Heel remarked in 1987 that a red or blue pencil crayon line meant that Bredius had beat him to it. Other researchers also left their traces (figs. 2, 3).
Auteur: Leonore van Sloten
Titel: On Rembrandt and Elephant Buttocks “from life”
Hansken is the most famous elephant of the seventeenth century, partly thanks to Rembrandt, who drew her on several occasions. But there is much more material that gives insight into her life: prints, news reports, written sources, and even her skeleton. In the summer of 2021 a selection of these objects went on view at the Rembrandt House Museum, in the exhibition Hansken, Rembrandt’s Elephant. One recently discovered object that originally seemed to be related to Hansken did not make it into the final exhibition selection but merits a separate elucidation. It concerns a drawing of an elephant looking at its buttocks. Further research has shed new light on how this specific sheet was created. This article takes a closer look at the question.
Auteur: David de Witt
Titel: A Drawn Studio Scene by Cornelis Bisschop, instead of Jan Lievens
In addition to the world before their eyes, seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish artists also turned their gaze around, to themselves in self-portraits, and even to the ateliers in which they were working, in numerous drawings and paintings. These give us behind-the-scenes glimpses of period practice. This is especially helpful given the precious few written sources they left us, compared to their counterparts in Italy, or France. Such scenes help fill in the gaps, even when we account for artistic license, embellishments, and distortions shaped by prior traditions. One example in the Liberna Collection in Mettingen, a drawing in pen and wash, is particularly striking because it shows a moment of instruction (fig. 1). A painter points at a large drawing shown to him by a pupil on the floor, with a stick or brush in his hand. He pauses from his work on the painting taking shape on his easel behind him to offer instruction and correction. It is of course important to know whose viewpoint this was. Until now, the existing attribution has led us in the wrong direction, however.
Titel: In memoriam Willemijn Fock (1942 2021)
On the third of June this year Willemijn Fock, Emeritus Professor of the History of Applied Arts at Leiden University, passed away at the age of 78. In the late 1990s she was engaged by The Rembrandt House Museum as advisor on the reinstallation of the interior according to the situation in Rembrandt’s time.
Titel: In memoriam Ernst van de Wetering (1938-2021)
On 11 August of this year Ernst van de Wetering, former Head of the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) and Professor Emeritus of Art History of the Early Modern Period at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), passed away. As the world’s foremost Rembrandt connoisseur, Ernst van de Wetering was of great significance to the Rembrandt House Museum. Years of intensive collaboration between him and the museum led to high profile exhibitions, that brought the museum onto the international stage. And his research into Rembrandt’s working methods and studio practice contributed to the installation and the educational activities of the museum as a seventeenth-century artist’s house.