Christ Appearing to the Apostles, 1656
Rembrandt van Rijn
etching on ivory laid paper
16.3 x 21.2 cm
Gift in memory of Margaret Wade Labarge from her collection, 2010
National Gallery of Canada (no. 43098)
Various titles have been proposed for this etching. In 1731 it was described as "Christ Giving the Keys to Peter". The title proposed in 1797, "Jesus Christ among his disciples with Thomas kneeling before him", was adapted in 1824 as "The Incredulity of St. Thomas". In the early twentieth century, the German historian of Italian Mannerism Werner Weisbach noted how many of the figures draw back as if before a dazzling light, suggesting the first appearance of Christ before his terrified apostles, as related in Luke 24:36-40. Christ's divine presence is conveyed with a strong radiant line suggesting a flash of brilliant light. During the eighteenth century "Christ Appearing to the Apostles" was mistakenly considered to be unfinished, but it is now accepted as the best example of "free style," in which modelling is kept to a minimum and the paper plays a major role in completing the image.