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In Rembrandt’s time most artists specialized in a specific genre, for instance the portrait, the still-life or the landscape. Rembrandt, by contrast, aspired to be versatile. His etchings of landscapes, genre scenes and studies of ordinary people tell us this. He also had to master all the different genres for his history works. A history painter, after all, had to be able to place his story in the right setting and dress it appropriately. He was also expected to depict figures in every conceivable pose.

Here we can see two etchings by Rembrandt, that depict scenes from daily life, called genre etchings. They belong together, illustrating how two peasants discuss the weather. The farmer on the left calls out: “it’s damned cold”, to which the farmer on the right responds with: “that’s not.” The amusing thing about these two etchings is that the two peasants are standing back to back. These two etchings are currently part of the exhibition Rembrandt, the etcher. Highlights of the Rembrandt House Museum,  on view until September 29th.

Rembrandt looked at the etchings of another – older – artist as an example for these two peasants. Do you know what artist we’re referring to? We’ll show you next week, in the second part of this Fact Friday!


On the left: Rembrandt, A peasant calling out: ‘tis vinnich kout’ (it’s damned cold), 1634. Etching, only state. The Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam. | On the right: Rembrandt, A peasant, replying: ‘dats niet’ (that’s not), 1634. Etching, only state. The Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam.

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