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ETCHING The Return of the Prodigal Son
The return of the prodigal son (B91), 1636.
Etching, only state.
The image size is 15.6 x 13.6 cm.
The subject of this print is again taken from one of the parables. A man had two sons, one of whom demanded his inheritance in advance and left home. When he returned, having squandered the lot on loose living, he was nevertheless joyfullly welcomed home by his father (Luke 15:11-32). For this monumental composition Rembrandt borrowed heavily from a woodcut of the same subject by Maarten van Heemskerck. According to the inventory of 1656 Rembrandt had copies of numerous Van Heemskerck-prints.
Handprinted etching: how do we make the most beautiful reproductions of Rembrandt's etchings? First the etching is photographed. The best photograph is transferred to a copper plate which is covered with a special layer to make it sensitive to light. All the unexposed areas in this layer where black lines occur can then be washed away. The copper is exposed and grooves are created when the plate is subsequently immersed in a bath of acid. While looking through a stereomicroscope the engraver cuts the lines in the plate by hand. He uses a sharp burin and works with meticulous care, constantly comparing his work with the original, following the hand of Rembrandt. Once the plate is ready, it can be printed. The printing is done by hand. The final result comes very close to Rembrandt's original. It is as if the master himself has been at work.
The etching is available without (w.m.) or with a mount. The mount is cream coloured, 30 x 40 cm.