A Man Drawing from a Cast, c. 1641
Rembrandt van Rijn
etching on ivory laid paper
9.5 x 6.6 cm; plate: 9.3 x 6.4 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 42570)
Given Rembrandt's numerous references to art history, it is surprising how few of his works, excluding the self-portraits, take art practice as their subject. "A Man Drawing from a Cast" shows Rembrandt's investment in the values of art education. Though a small print, it is filled with visual detail and symbolism. The dependence of art upon higher learning is indicated by the setting of "Man Drawing from a Cast" in a library. A book is used, quite irreverently, to raise the bust that serves as the draughtsman's model. The burning candle to the right tells us that it is a night scene, suggesting that this is either an exercise in chiaroscuro or an admonishment to students to practise constantly. Indeed, the features of the artist portrayed have been compared to those of Gerbrandt van den Eeckhout (1621-74), Rembrandt's pupil in the late 1630s and early 1640s.