The Stoning of St. Stephen is listed in the catalogue of 18th-century art historian Adam Bartsch as number B097.
This extraordinary and highly important original etching is the work of the revered Dutch Old Master, Rembrandt Van Rijn. Entitled The Stoning of St. Stephen, this highly detailed composition is an outstanding representation of the painter's skill as an engraver. This etching is known to be a first state of five, meaning that this is the first print made of an etched plate out of five impressions. It boasts the sharpest detail and best quality of all the prints made from this plate. This impression retains the "line below signature" described by art historian G.W. Nowell-Usticke as characteristic of late first state impressions. This etching was also a part of the famed collection of Jean-Baptiste-Florentin-Gabriel de Meryan, Marquis de Lagoy, whose collection of drawings included the work of such artists as Albrecht Dürer.
One of Rembrandt's evocative religious subjects, this etching combines the incredible detailed naturalism and symbolic importance for which his work is known. At the center, St. Stephen, who is considered the first Christian martyr, appears illuminated, as if glowing with holiness, while his executors set about their grim work with shadows encroaching upon their faces and bodies.
The son of a miller, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is believed to have been born in Leiden on July 15, 1606. He studied first at the Latin School, and then was enrolled at the University of Leiden at the age of 14. He soon left to study art - first with a local master, Jacob van Swanenburch, and then, in Amsterdam, with Pieter Lastman, known for his historical paintings. Rembrandt was an exceptionally gifted student, and mastered his art in a mere six months. Now 22 years old, he returned to Leiden, and was soon so highly regarded that he was able to take students of his own.
Though known today primarily for his paintings, Rembrandt's fame was spread outside of the Netherlands by his etchings. He made hundreds of etchings for most of his career, from 1626-1660, when he was forced to sell his presses. He did etchings of a number of subjects, including self-portraits, biblical subjects, saints and allegories, and his work was avidly admired and collected, even during his lifetime. These small works of art were considered beautifully executed, and done with excellent taste.
The print medium allowed artists to experiment in a way that painting did not, especially since they were rarely done on commission, and thus did not have to conform to someone else's tastes. Rembrandt was known to be even more innovative in his etching than most artists. He did not engage a professional printmaker, preferring to print and sell his etchings himself, while keeping the plates to rework and reprint. He almost never reproduced his own paintings or drawing. He was also known to have invented his own particular method of etching, creating prints that exuded spontaneity and vigor. Because he trained not as an engraver but as a painter, he developed and used techniques that matched his methods. For Rembrandt, his etchings were not afterthoughts or subordinate mediums compared to painting, but new and innovative ways in which to achieve new heights of self-expression. It is no surprise that these prints have been revered by elite art collectors for over five centuries.
Rembrandt's etchings were included in the seminal, 20-volume catalogue Le Peintre graveur, compiled by Austrian artist and scholar Adam Bartsch. This pioneering work in the systematic study of Dutch, Flemish, German, and Italian painter-engravers from the 15th to the 17th century is the foundation of the history of printmaking.
Rembrandt's work has been featured in countless exhibitions.
Dictionary of Artists, 2006, E. Bénézit
Rembrandt, 2000, Mariët Westermann
Rembrandt: The Master & his workshop Drawing & Etchings, 1991, Holm Bevers, Peter Schatborn & Barbara Welzel