1654 First State Rembrandt Etching
We have a very, very close friend who gave it to my husband and I when we first got married as a wedding gift. And I knew nothing about it. I know by reading the name on the bottom that it says "Rembrandt," but I never could be quite sure. So it's been hanging on my wall and I've always wanted to know something about it.
Well, I looked at it very closely. You actually allowed me to take it out of the frame you brought it in and I can assure you that it is an etching by Rembrandt. And you pointed out his name here. His signature is in the plate, Rembrandt. The F is Latin for "fecit," meaning "Rembrandt made this," and then you see the date here, 1654, is when it was made. The title of this print is “The Virgin and Child with the Snake and the Cat,” and you might see the Virgin and the Child immediately, but I'll point out the snake, right below her, there. Underneath the Virgin's foot you can just make out the head of the snake.
And over here, curled up sort of, right next to the chair, is the cat.
And you also see the figure of Joseph here, off to the side, looking in through the window.
The snake and the cat most likely represent the Holy Family's flight into Egypt-- two animals representing the sort of exotic Middle East. And normally, you don't see that in a representation of the Virgin and Child, so that's probably what Rembrandt is pointing out here. Now, the interesting thing about this print is that it's a first state of two. A state is any time that there's been a change or addition to the etched plate and in this case, you have this blank circle up here. That blank circle only appears in the first state. In the second state, Rembrandt etched more lines in there to cover that circle up. That's how we know that's a first state, because of that blank patch. We also looked at it closely and flipped the paper over. I held it up to the light and I could see it had a watermark on it. And the watermark is a foolscap watermark, which signifies that it's a 17th-century paper. So we've identified this as an early print, a first state of two by Rembrandt, that it was printed in his lifetime, which gives it some importance. Rembrandt sold his plates during his lifetime and they survived him after his death and they were printed from by other publishers. Those are of significantly less value than the lifetime impressions.
Something along the lines of a second state printed a hundred years after Rembrandt's death would sell for about $3,000 to $5,000. But your print here again, in the good condition that it's in, being printed in the 17th century by Rembrandt himself is worth about $15,000 to $20,000.
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