Similar to his fascination with self-portraits, Rembrandt created many versions of the 13th Station of the Cross: Christ’s descent from the cross. This etching is a direct copy of his painting of the scene done in the same year at the request of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange. Also called the Deposition of Christ, the scene portrays the aftermath of Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus’ followers Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, after getting permission from Pontius Pilate, removed the messiah’s body to be laid in the tomb. Less popular than crucifixion and resurrection scenes, Jesus’ Descent from the Cross is a somber, morbid subject. It became a popular subject in the Western world in the 10th century. Rembrandt worked in various media to explore the holy event, the piece here is an etching. Metal etching is the process of using a strong acid to create an intaglio print in a plate. The technique allows greater control over light and shade. The delicate beams of light streaming onto Christ’s limp body and the deep shadows in the clothes of his followers lend themselves to this technique. Even though he was not particularly religious himself, Rembrandt still chose to paint Christian scenes. He created this etching during his early years living in Amsterdam, where his work was inspired by dramatic baroque paintings. This influence is clearly seen in Descent from the Cross.
-Susan Bonta, Class of 2018