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The Dramatic Image: Baroque Prints of the 17th Century

Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch, 1606–1669

The Raising of Lazarus: The Large Plate

Etching, engraving, and drypoint, 1634
Fredrick B. and Kate L. Shoemaker Fund, 1974.50

The standing figure of Jesus raises his left arm summoning Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus has moved his hand to the rim of his sarcophagus and is in the process of pulling himself up. Light emanates from the right, illuminating Lazarus and the astonished mourners surrounding him.

Historically, this print has been considered Rembrandt’s first “magnum opus” as it is technically well-executed and achieves a grandeur that was, until its time, unprecedented in Rembrandt’s etchings. Areas of the copper plate were deliberately worked to produce a soft, atmospheric effect and to isolate interior from exterior, greatly enhancing the chiaroscuro effects so evident in this print.

Chiaroscuro is an Italian word meaning “clear” (chiaro) and “obcsure” (scuro). It is a representation of intense contrasts between deeply shadowed and highlighted areas. Chiaroscuro had its greatest proponent in the artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573–1610) and became an important attribute of Baroque art.