THE HAPPY SONG: ‘La Petite Tombe’ by Rembrandt Van Rijn (1650 – 55)

The indefinable Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606 – 1669) has made his mark in history more through his etchings than his paintings. His scratches and scribbles; his bizarre variety of lines from loose to quick, cross hatched to deep and from dark to blotty have succeeded in depicting the world through its black and white beauty . Rembrandt’s needle like a quill weaved lines of life and creativity. His secret weapon was the dry point technique. ( )

Contrary to Michelangelo, Rembrandt was not obsessed with the muscular. His style is boundless representing the human being in all ages, statures and conditions. They are subtle and yet complex; detailed and yet bare; grouped and yet isolated. But like the musicians of an orchestra Rembrandt’s drawings symphonise to form one unique whole. The etching in consideration titled ‘La Petite Tombe’ mirrors one such marvellous medley.

Often misinterpreted as ‘the Little Tomb’ on which Christ supposedly stands, the origins of the title can be traced to a compiled catalogue of Rembrandt’s etchings by Gersaint in 1751 – 52. It draws reference to Nicholas de la Tombe, a contemporary art dealer who is postulated to have commissioned this plate. The subject is one of Rembrandt’s favourite and most famously revisited theme i.e. ‘Christ Preaching’. The etching is a condensed, counter-balanced and a clearer version of the artist magnum opus – ‘The Hundred Guilder print.’

At once we are drawn to the illuminating figure of Christ preaching the Good News to ordinary people in a limited space. To His left lies a gateway to the outside world muddled by buildings and serpentine streets.  Thus, the setting of the preaching serves as the secret space where the ‘laboured and the heavy burdened’ seek rest.

The arched gateway
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