About this artwork

This is one of Rembrandt’s most puzzling prints, as its exact subject is a mystery. It shows an elderly scholar in his study, transfixed by the apparition of a blazing disc of light enclosing a series of letters. The scene may represent an alchemist, but does not correspond with traditional representations of the subject. Although nicknamed ‘Faust’, it does not accord with any passage in Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’. The shining disc also remains unexplained, although the letters ‘INRI’ match the inscription placed over Christ’s head during the crucifixion. The scene possibly shows an allegory of faith; the letters surrounding the disc are intended to be indecipherable, reminding the learned scholar that human knowledge is limited and ambiguous, in contrast with the clarity of divine wisdom.

see media
  • title:
    Faust in his Study
  • accession number:
    P 522
  • artist:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • materials:
    Etching, drypoint and burin on paper
  • date created:
    About 1652
  • measurements:
    Plate mark: 21.00 x 16.00 cm
  • credit line:
    Sir David Young Cameron Gift 1943 through the Art Fund

Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn)

Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn)