Portrait of Abraham Francen

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, late 1600s - late 1660s)
ca. 1657
Etching and drypoint
Sheet : 6 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (15.88 x 20.96 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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Rembrandt van Rijn is considered to be one of the greatest artists of Holland’s Golden Age. While he is famous today for his paintings, during his lifetime Rembrandt's international reputation rested primarily on his etchings. This work depicts Rembrandt’s good friend, the apothecary Abraham Francen. Francen often helped Rembrandt during times of financial crisis, and even took guardianship of Rembrandt’s daughter Cornelia upon his death. Rembrandt may have made this print as an expression of his gratitude for Francen’s friendship. Rembrandt's portraits are important in the development of early modern portraiture because they not only depict their subjects’ physical features, but also capture their inner characters. Rembrandt often conveyed his subjects’ characters by including objects in the composition that refer to the sitter’s social status and intellectual pursuits. Here, for example, items reflective of Francen's interests and personality surround him within a domestic interior. The skull on the table refers to his profession as an apothecary, while the small Chinese statue next to it could be a reference to the global reach of Dutch traders like those of the East India Company. The assortment of paintings on the wall behind Francen also shows that he was both a collector and admirer of fine art. [Madeleine Zimmerman 2020]

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