The Three Crosses ('Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves')
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The Three Crosses ('Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves')
This print represents the climax of Rembrandt’s career as a printmaker. It is produced entirely in drypoint and is his largest etching. This is the fourth state, and shows the moment of Christ’s death on the cross. In earlier states the scene is one of total chaos, with the cross surrounded by jostling crowds and grieving family and friends. Here, Rembrandt altered the composition by darkening and obscuring the crowd so that the central focus is Christ on the cross. Rembrandt cast a dark light over the scene by working over the entire plate with hatched lines. This gloomy atmosphere recalls the darkness described in the gospel and also symbolises the ignorance and lack of wisdom surrounding the crucifixion.

Glossary Open

Composition

The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.

Drypoint

A printmaking technique that uses a needle to etch an image directly onto a copper plate. The resulting raised surface, or burr, which holds the ink used in the printmaking process produces a soft, velvety effect.

Etching

A form of printmaking in which a metal plate is covered with a substance called a 'ground', usually wax, into which an image is drawn with a needle. Acid is applied, eroding the areas of the plate exposed but not the areas covered by wax. The action of the acid creates lines in the metal plate that hold the ink from which a print is made when the plate is pressed against paper under pressure.

Hatching

A technique used for shading or creating texture in drawing, print-making and engraving. It consists of fine parallel lines that are drawn close together. Where groups of lines intersect, the term ‘cross-hatching’ is used.

Composition, Drypoint, Etching, Hatching

Details

  • Acc. No. REMBRANDT.41
  • Medium Drypoint and burin on paper
  • Size 38.50 x 45.00 cm
  • Credit Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. Purchased 1910