Basan Rembrandt Etching, ca. 1780

Value (2009) | $15,000 Insurance

A friend of mine gave it to me three years ago.

And how do you know her?

She used to go with my son.

You don't say. What do you know about it?

That it's a Rembrandt. And she told me that she thought it was his wife.


And that it was at different stages in the wife's lifetime. Other than that, I really don't know anything.

Well, you're absolutely correct in saying that it's a Rembrandt. This is an etching by Rembrandt. Saskia, pictured front and center here, the most important character in this print. Saskia is Rembrandt's wife. And as you see down here, you have Rembrandt's signature, and then the date, 1636. That's when the plate for this etching was made. Saskia was from a fairly wealthy family, and Rembrandt was an up-and-coming artist. And he married her in 1634. They bought their first house in Amsterdam in 1635. So things were very rosy at the time of this portrait. They were newlyweds, he's picturing his beautiful young wife as she looks here. It's a rather sad story. Over the next five years, Saskia had four children. Three of them died in infancy. She had her last son in 1641. His name is Titus. And then in 1642, Saskia herself died, probably of tuberculosis. So this is sort of a fleeting glance at happiness in Rembrandt's life. Rembrandt made the actual etching plate in 1636. The impression you have was actually printed after Rembrandt died. His plates survived, and by the 1780s, those plates were accumulated by a Parisian publisher whose last name is Basan, B-a-s-a-n. And Basan reworked the plates to bring them back to some of their original life and glory, and in the mid-1780s he issued a publication with impressions pulled from the original plates. And that's what this is. Now, the way I can gauge that this is a print taken in the 1780s rather than a lifetime impression is first and foremost that it's an 18th-century paper rather than a 17th-century paper. There are also qualities in the printing itself. Whereas Rembrandt might have clean-wiped this plate so that the background was as white as the paper on the outside here, what Basan did was to leave a film of ink over the whole plate, giving it that extra darkness, hiding the wear in the plate. Now, obviously a posthumous impression isn't going to have the value of a lifetime impression. I would appraise this for replacement value at $15,000 today. Okay?


It's in beautiful shape.

Thank you. APPRASIER: Thank you for coming in.

Thank you. APPRASIER: The value of a lifetime impression would be anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000.

Appraisal Details

Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$15,000 Insurance
Denver, CO (July 25, 2009)

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