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Descent from the Cross by Torchlight

Accession Number

Descent from the Cross by Torchlight

Rembrandt van Rijn

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching and drypoint on laid paper

10 7/16 x 6 3/4 in. (26.5 x 17 cm);19 3/8 x 14 3/8 in. (49.1 x 36.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Alice Berle Crawford

Label copy
While Rembrandt's "Descent from the Cross" of 1633 is affecting because of its dramatic action, realism, and show of emotion, this version touches us by its powerful dark and light contrasts, abstraction, and the focus on the inner responses of the participants.
Rembrandt daringly cropped the cross, placing the scenc of the Descent at the left edge of the composition. By compressing the figures, he increased dramatic tension while creating an intimate mood. The long diagonal of the winding cloth draws our eyes rightward from the top left down to the limp body of the dead Christ, held by a man tottering under the weight, beside whom appears a raised hand, sharply illuminated. Rather than the supernatural rays of the earlier print, here the torch held by one of the leftmost helpers is the sole light source. To concentrate the action, the artist left large expanses of paper nearly bare and created large areas of sheer darkness. The placement of the bier in the foreground makes it seem nearly part of our space, enhancing the personal quality of this print. Rather than display anguish, the figures seem to bear their sorrow inwardly. The emphasis is on Christ's suffering, as seen in his utterly exhausted expression and the wrenching detail of one foot still nailed to the cross.
Exhibition labe text by Dr. Annette Dixon for "Bold Strokes: The Inventiveness of Rembrandt's Late Prints," February 24 - April 28, 1996.

Primary Object Classification

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Crucifixion (religious theme)
Jesus Christ

3 Related Resources

Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Visual Narratives
(Part of: Visual Narrative)

& Author Notes

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