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Maker(s):Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Culture:Dutch (1606 - 1669)
Title:The Three Crosses, Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves
Date Made:ca. 1653
Materials:drypoint and burin printed in black on medium thick, smooth cream-colored paper
Place Made:Netherlands
Measurements:Sheet/Image: 15 1/4 in x 17 13/16 in; 38.7 cm x 45.2 cm
Accession Number:  SC 2017.49.1
Credit Line:Gift of Mary Gordon Roberts, class of 1960, in honor of the 55th reunion of her class
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

religious; Crucifixion scene; Christ on the cross; Golgotha; biblical scene

Label Text:
As the dominant and ubiquitous icon of Christian art, the crucifixion completes the passion of Jesus of Nazareth as the last chapter in Christ’s humiliation on the path to his death and resurrection The extreme mortification of Christ, nailed to the cross, is illuminated by a chain of supernatural events as he calls out to his father: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46, KJV
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ?”that is, “ My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me ?” 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, 52 and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
While regarded by some theologians to be the true evidence of Christ’s divine lineage, the famous Dutch 17th century artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn interprets Jesus’ outcry as a truly human response. It is this intimate moment of Christ’s ultimate vulnerability that Rembrandt choses to capture in his prints The Three Crosses (Christ Crucified among the Two Thieves). Although Rembrandt’s humanistic vision of these biblical tales was not unique in the Protestant North, his works exhibit acute attention to human emotions and express his search of man’s personal connection to the divine. It is his sensitivity to the human psyche as transparently conveyed through his artistic mastery that communicates through these works in perpetuity.
Rembrandt intensively worked and reworked the composition of The Three Crosses, experimenting with different types of paper, vellum and inking variations. Four versions, or ‘states,’ of The Three Crosses were produced during Rembrandt’s lifespan, with one more posthumous state, printed by the obscure printmaker Frans Carelse before the plate disappeared. No other impressions are extant.
It was not until the third state that Rembrandt considered his print formally completed as his signature affirms. Solely created in drypoint, a print technique which allows for only a limited number of impressions, Rembrandt did something very bold; instead of destroying his copper plate after it started to wear down, he decided to rework the composition completely by adding and erasing figures in the scene. The most evident compositional changes are found between the third and fourth states.

biblical; Christianity; religion

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