Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Satire on Art Criticism

Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
Pen and brown ink corrected with white.
6 1/8 x 7 15/16 in. (15.5 x 20.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
Not on view
An atypical subject and approach to composition, Rembrandt's "Satire on Art Criticism" buffoons the rhetoric of his contemporary art critics. The posturing "connoisseur" at left comments on painted portraits brought before him. Rembrandt has drawn his composition from a classical subject, "The Calumny of Apelles", which he knew from a drawing by the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna (1430/31-1506). In Mantegna's drawing the beautiful Calumny, urged on by Treachery and Deceit, drags an innocent youth who is the victim of slander before a judge bearing the ears of an ass; the judge is flanked by Ignorance and Suspicion, and Repentance and Truth linger in the background. Here Rembrandt has reduced the number of personifications and transformed them into onlookers in contemporary dress. He has substituted two painted portraits for the victim receiving judgment. The drawing remains somewhat enigmatic, since the inscriptions on the critic's platform and on the framed painting cannot be read easily, nor are they surely in Rembrandt's hand.
Inscription: Inscribed in the margin at the bottom center: den tijt 1644; on the critic's platform: dees...van d kunst / is hortich gunst; on the bottom of the framed painting: Houdloos...ind . dat. (the inscription at the top indecipherable).

Annotated at the bottom left: Rembrant.

Marking: Watermark (near the left border and perpendicular to it): fleur-de-lis in a shield surmounted by a crown.
Baron Vivant Denon, Paris (Lugt 779 on the recto); probably Vivant Denon sale, Paris, 1 May 1826, lot 655 (as "un dessin à la plume représentant un sujet allé-gorique," by Rembrandt); Frederich August II of Saxony (1797-1854), Dresden (Lugt 971 on the recto), and his descendants; Mr. and Mrs. Louis H. Silver, Chicago; [M. Knoedler and Co., New York]. Acquired by Robert Lehman from Knoedler in June 1963.
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