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Lieven Willemsz. van Coppenol, Writing Master (Large Plate)Enlarge image

Lieven Willemsz. van Coppenol, Writing Master (Large Plate), c. 1658, printed c. 1790

Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch, 1606 - 1669
etching, drypoint, and burin on ivory laid paper
34.5 x 29.2 cm
Gift in memory of Margaret Wade Labarge from her collection, 2010
National Gallery of Canada (no. 43101)

Today this portrait of calligrapher Lieven van Coppenol might seem dour and formal, but in eighteenth-century France it was among the most sought-after of Rembrandt's etchings. It is unusual for its painterly qualities: a rich range of blacks and greys convey the textures and details of drapery and clothing, while the white of untouched paper is left for highlights. Acclaimed as the "Phoenix penman of his time," Coppenol had a flare for self-promotion and used engraved portraits by Rembrandt and Cornelisz Visscher in a broadsheet advertisement. In Rembrandt's portrayal of him as a stern, tight-lipped disciplinarian, one would not recognize the jovial sitter of Visscher's portrait except for his skullcap, his bushy grey locks of hair, and, of course, the quill. The watermark in the paper support tells us that this etching was printed in France, likely in the late eighteenth century.

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