REMBRANDT HARMENSZ. VAN RIJN
1606 Leiden – Amsterdam 1669
A superb, very early impression with substantial burr in the drypoint work, particularly toward the left, but also printing strongly and with touches of burr at right and therefore allowing for a very balanced composition. The sheet is in impeccable, untreated condition with thread margins all round.
Hinterding and Rutgers, the authors of The New Hollstein on Rembrandt, discovered three impressions pulled when small details on the plate had not been finished; they describe them as a unique first state and as a second state that is known in two impressions. Their fourth state is a very late, eighteenth-century reworking of the original plate.
The Triumph of Mordecai shows a scene from the Old Testament Book of Esther in which the two main characters in a very complex story—Mordecai shown royally clothed and mounted on a horse, and Haman, his enemy, forced to act as his herald, standing in the foreground—are as yet unaware of their imminent fates. For King Ahasuerus has been informed by Esther, his Jewish consort, of the dastardly plot hatched by Haman, his favorite: since Mordecai, Esther’s stepfather, has refused to pay him homage, Haman intends to massacre all the Jews in the empire and to hang Mordecai from a gallows that he has already had erected. In the meantime, the king has discovered that Mordecai has foiled an attempt on his life and thus honors him with this procession. Mordecai is not yet aware of the reason for his royal treatment and Haman does not realize that he is the one who will, in fact, be hanged on the gallows.
In his etching Rembrandt referred to two other depictions of this scene: Lucas van Leyden’s engraving of 1515 (Bartsch 32), an almost frieze-like composition populated by a large crowd paying homage to Mordecai, and a painting of 1621 by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman in which the scene is given more emotional and perspectival depth. If Rembrandt incorporated elements of both of these works into his version, in execution it represents a bravura display of a range of printmaking techniques that is entirely characteristic of his work.