His solutions are innovative. The dry point was used until then in addition to etching and chisel for minor reworks of the drawing. Rembrandt attempts compositions entirely in dry point. Applied obliquely like a pencil, his needle improves the variety of the line. The incision of the point in the copper is shallow, allowing a harmony between the drawing and the inkings left voluntarily on the plate to bring contrasts and shadows.
A fine image deserves a great paper. Rembrandt was seduced by a stock recently imported in Amsterdam by the Dutch East India Company, with a beautiful light brown-yellow hue and a fibre that does not absorb ink and provides a sharpness comparable to vellum.
His first masterpiece in these improved techniques is The Three Crosses (Christ crucified between the two thieves), 38 x 45 cm, made in 1653. He prepares shortly after in the same size another scene of the Passion, Ecce Homo (Christ presented to the people). The oriental paper is smaller than his copperplate and he adds a narrow extra stripe at the top of the image.
An impression of the first state of Ecce Homo is for sale by Christie's in London on July 5, lot 22. The press release of April 30 announces an estimate in the region of US $ 3M to 5M. It is the only copy remaining in private hands from the first four states of this image.
The copper plates wear out, preventing large printing. The artist deliberately blurs some damaged areas of Ecce Homo after its fourth state. The eighth and last state is dated 1655. For the fourth and penultimate state of the Three Crosses around 1661, he works differently, replacing the subtle smoky contrasts by diagonal streaks.
This solution could not satisfy the artist because of the painstaking preparation of the ink shades and of the necessarily incomplete and frustrating repairs to the worn plates. He will not reuse this technique, giving up the possible project of a dry point series on the Passion of Christ.
SOLD for £ 2.65M including premium