The Descent from the Cross by Torchlight


Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati, United States

In this dynamic composition, Rembrandt imagined the physical challenge posed by the dead weight of Christ’s body. Rembrandt carries our eyes across the print through the use of a strong zigzag movement, beginning with Christ’s shroud at the top left corner to the figures in the lower right and continuing to the bottom left corner through the stretcher that will carry the body. Cleverly, Rembrandt has placed our vantage point here, connecting the viewer with the scene by suggesting that it is our responsibility to pick up the unmanned end of the stretcher.

Rembrandt heightened the drama of this scene by situating it at night and lighting it by a torch. The large passages of dark are rendered with a dense web of deeply etched lines. The nocturnal setting instills a grave quietude that permeates the emotional tone of the work. Rembrandt also imbued an aura of solemnity around the figures retrieving Christ’s body.

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  • Title: The Descent from the Cross by Torchlight
  • Creator: Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, b.1606, d.1669), printmaker
  • Date Created: 1654
  • Physical Dimensions: plate mark 8 1/4 x 6 5/16 in. (21 x 16 cm.), on sheet 8 1/2 x 6 9/16 in. (21.6 x 16.6 cm.)
  • Credit Line: Gift of Herbert Greer French
  • Type: Print
  • Medium: etching and drypoint
  • Accession Number: 1940.468