Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses

Artist: Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)

Date: 1653

Medium: Drypoint printed on vellum

Dimensions: Plate: 15 x 17 1/4 in. (38.1 x 43.8 cm)
Sheet: 15 1/8 x 17 7/16 in. (38.4 x 44.3 cm)
Mount: 22 x 28 in. (55.9 x 71.1 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941

Accession Number: 41.1.31


The Three Crosses is one of Rembrandt's finest works in any medium and it represents the culmination of his virtuosity as a printmaker. Rembrandt drew on the copperplate entirely in drypoint, which allowed him to fully exploit the velvety areas of burr raised by the drypoint tool as it cuts into the copper. In early well-inked impressions such as this one, large areas of burr appear as tone rather than fine lines. This impression was printed with plate tone, which lightly veils the figures standing at the foot of the cross on the right; a thicker layer almost completely covers the bushes along the right edge. By creatively inking the copperplate, Rembrandt heightened dark and light contrasts, clarified spatial relationships, and produced entirely unique impressions each time he printed the plate. He further varied impressions by printing them on different supports; this impression is printed on vellum, which infuses the composition with a warm light. Vellum holds ink on the surface, softening lines and enhancing the richness of the drypoint burr. (See also the fourth state of this print, 41.1.33.)