The Star of the Kings: a Night Piece
etching with touches of drypoint, circa 1652, on laid paper, with an indistinct watermark, a brilliant, dark and even impression of New Hollstein's first state (of four), printing with bright highlights and considerable burr in the lantern and the column in the background
Plate 94 x 142 mm.
Sheet 95 x 143 mm.
Bartsch, Hollstein 113; Hind 254; New Hollstein 263
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Lot Essay

This etching, a remarkable evocation of darkness, shows a little street scene during an Epiphany-procession in Amsterdam. On 6 January, to celebrate the Adoration of the Magi, groups of children and grown-ups would walk through the city at night, singing and collecting small gifts. As a reference to the Star of Bethlehem that led the three kings to the stable, each group would carry a star-shaped lantern. We can see such a group in the foreground, partially lit by the lantern. Another lantern shines far in the background, and a few windows are dimly lit from inside the houses. The rest of the scene disappears in almost complete darkness. We can only vaguely discern the figures in the foreground, the outlines of the houses and rather guess than see that the distant lantern is on a bridge above a canal. As so often, Rembrandt doesn’t ‘depict’ the scene as much as making us experience it for ourselves, as if we are part of this nocturnal procession – an effect that only fine, early impressions such as the present one can convey.
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