In 1637, Dutch scholar Franciscus Junius’s collection of ancient Greek writings, called The Painting of the Ancients, appeared in Amsterdam. Here Rembrandt could read about the mystique of unfinished paintings. These works, the book said, “are held in higher admiration than . . . finished works, for in them the line drawings are left exposed and the plans of the artists can be seen.”
The book then compared the two greatest painters of Greek antiquity, Apelles and Protogenes. The latter was known for the fine detail of his paintings, and the former for the speed and freedom of his work. In this print, made shortly after the book’s appearance, Rembrandt laid claim to being heir to both traditions. Ancient artworks were the perfect ones for Rembrandt to compete with, since no one knew what they looked like!
Image: Rembrandt, The Artist Drawing from a Model, unfinished plate, c. 1639, etching, The William M. Ladd Collection, gift of Herschel V. Jones, 1916 P.1,302