homepage logo

BYU art museum displays light-sensitive Rembrandt prints

By Sarah Hunt - | Feb 16, 2023

Courtesy BYU Museum of Art

“The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake (II/II),” 1654, etching and burin, by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is currently on display at the BYU Museum of Art.

The Brigham Young University Museum of Art opened their Print Study Room to students and the public for the second time this year on Wednesday. On display were 12 light-sensitive prints by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the Dutch artist known primarily as Rembrandt.

Born in 1606, Rembrandt was a printmaker, draftsman and painter in the 17th century. It is estimated that he created 2,000 drawings and almost 400 etchings, and it is debated that he produced somewhere between 300 and 600 paintings, according to biographical records.

Although open to the public, BYU puts light-sensitive pieces on display in the Print Study Room four times each semester as an opportunity for students in world civilization and art history classes to see the historical works in person. 

“It’s different to have an old master of religious pieces like Rembrandt in Utah,” said Tiffany Wixom, collections manager. “Our newest Rembrandt acquisition, ‘Student at a Table by Candlelight’ (c.1642), is rarer and not a lot of research has been done on this piece.”

The piece shows a diligent student working at night by the light of a small candle, according to the print’s description. Light is used as a symbol in this piece to represent the light of understanding and gaining further intelligence, as well as Jesus Christ.

Sarah Hunt, Daily Herald

A sign directing patrons to the lower level for the exhibit on Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn at the BYU Museum of Art on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

The works on display are all prints, created through etching. Etching involves a reversed image being carved into a metal plate covered in acid-resistant wax, exposing the metal where lines are drawn with etching tools. The plate is then immersed in acid, burning the lines of the image into the plate. 

After cleaning the acid off, a layer of ink is applied and wiped off to keep the ink only in the grooves that were carved in. The plate is then stamped onto a piece of paper, with the final product showing the image in the correct orientation. 

Several of Rembrandt’s more famous etchings are on display at the MoA, including “Raising of Lazarus: Large Plate” (c. 1632), in which Christ’s hands are raised above him with light emanating from them to Lazarus, surrounded by a shocked crowd, and “Christ Preaching (La Petite Tomb)” (c. 1652), which depicts Christ surrounded by a diverse crowd brought together by his words.

Other pieces on display include “The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake” (c. 1654), “Descent From The Cross By Torchlight” (c.1654), “Christ at Emmaus” (c. 1654), and “The Flight Into Egypt: crossing a Brook” (c. 1654), “Landscape With A Cow Drinking” (c. 1650), “The Goldsmith” (c. 1655), “St. Jerome Praying, Looking Down” (c. 1635), “The Raising of Lazarus: Small Plate” (c. 1642), and “The Pancake Woman” (c. 1635).

The Print Study Room doubles as a vault where other sensitive pieces are stored. Anyone can make an appointment two weeks in advance to see and study a piece from the BYU MoA vault. 

Guests are usually scholars, graduate students, professors, students and, on occasion, an entire class who comes to examine specific works. While the number of guests making such appointments has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Print Study Room continues to see patrons. 

The Rembrandt collection will be on display until Friday at 4 p.m. No photography or sketching is permitted.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)